Review: Insanely Infatuated With Someone At The Most Inappropriate Time by Nirartha Bas Diwangkara @SeaShorts

Lightness transitions into denser spaces as the film goes along.

A sense of freedom and fresh air from a young girl's bedroom quickly twists into suffocation, and by the end I am left to gasp for air, coughing from the dirt and dust of an abandoned shelter with a kept 'prisoner'. Insanely Infatuated With Someone At The Most Inappropriate Time goes into the spectrum of what puberty brings about in terms of sex, intimacy and romance. With innocence and curiosity comes the forbidden and temptation, and this film has no qualms in giving us a glimpse of the darker and misunderstood.

Touch is emphasised in several scenes, with bare skin coming into intimate contact with various textures — a bolster, a clear window, a vandalised table and another person's bare body. Sensuality comes through in the careful pacing of slowness and hypnotic rhythm, leading you into a trance of the moment, before it is broken by an external interruption. 

Director Nirartha Bas Diwangkara shares, "The idea of touching is very crucial in this film because the main character (Gunggek) is trying to 'feel' her imaginations and through this sensation of touching, the character is trying to satisfy or feed her curiosity of kissing and sex in real life. In this stage, Gunggek is confused to her sexual needs and is very desperate to be in love, and touching gives her a lesson to be prepared, if someday she has a proper relationship with someone. It is a channel of self-sex education for her."

Young and unsure of her newfound instincts, Gunggek finds herself in a strange attraction to her mentally ill uncle, who is severely misunderstood due to his needs and is found alone a lot of the times. Thinking about it, I am unsure if attraction is the word I will use since he is probably the first option that is unable to tell or read into Gunggek's intentions and urges. This keeps her exploration safe and private in possibly the only way she knows how.

This leads me to empathise with the young female protagonist. Her sense of loneliness, frustration and the shedding of innocence fills the silences in the film, and her eyes always find themselves looking at a far off place; dazed and glazed over.

It is no doubt that sex, sexuality and intimacy are topics we in Southeast Asia still do not address in very forthcoming ways. But the other issue of importance that we sweep under the carpet as well will be mental health and illness, which is another theme featured in this short film.

These are not new issues, and yet we struggle to address them in constructive ways. Why?

"I think I only can speak in term of Balinese society through what I understand. I think as Balinese, we need to look good and perfect, it applies for ourselves (from our job, what are you wearing, how much you earned, etc.) and the family we are from (what caste you are from, are you from a 'good' family, etc.)," reveals Nirartha.

"These attributes will help you be socially accepted in certain categories. Because Balinese are very communal and family oriented, we need to behave or you and your family will be labeled by the society, and people with mental illness often are associated with bad karma and bring bad influences (both physical and energy) to the society. There is not much self-initiated effort from people in Bali to learn what is the importance of sex education or mental health because these themes are considered very sensitive.  

Family who their member has a mental illness are often fighting alone without a support system from the direct community. The simple solution is to cage or tie them up or bring them to overcrowded mental hospital. This process is very tiring because our lives are full of commitment to ceremonies, community services and our own personal lives with other domestic family matters."

Although more campaigns on sex education and mental health awareness have emerged in Bali recently, Nirartha ponders that perhaps Balinese people still do not think that these are priorities in their lives yet, or still fear that others will think negatively about them and their families. 

Then I wonder what the role of film could possibly do to help this movement of more openness and support to grow in Bali. Although I personally feel that the portrayal of a Schizophrenic man as hallucinating and constantly laughter-induced to be superficial and caricature-like, which may not help real people who are diagnosed with a similar diagnosis, I do applaud the choice to address such hard-hitting issues.

With the heavy themes involved and Balinese society still adverse to such topics, casting proved difficult for Nirartha: "I realized that not many people are willing to work with these themes, especially for the sexual awareness theme. I was so lucky to meet and asked Riska to played Gunggek's character, especially where they were in the same age and the same 'caste.' I am also discussing social class in Bali, where we have complicated gap between economy class and status holder (such as caste system). I think expectations from our own family in Bali is very demanding, where a girl from a high caste is expected to be paired with the same one or the higher one, and it already planted since young age. Not all family with higher caste is privileged enough with money and this also plays a role in this film where the schizophrenic uncle is claimed himself to be rich and educated in order to be respected as a whole in the society.  

In preparing for the role, I just want them to be comfortable with the roles and I can achieved this with deep discussion of what the context of the story and who is the characters. For the schizophrenic uncle, I took my actor and my producer to Bali's only mental hospital in Bangli region and an independent organization in Denpasar that dealing with people with schizophrenia in order to have a full picture of the real condition and experience to be around people with mental illness."

Complex with the small details going on to serve the film in revelation of themes addressed, the theme of social class and economic status is lost on me when I first sat through the film since I have no prior knowledge of Balinese society. However, I do have a clearer picture now and am in awe for how a short film can speak so much about the times we live in today. 
Ending the interview on Insanely Infatuated With Someone At The Most Inappropriate Time, Nirartha shares that he hopes people are able to see beyond Bali's reputation as a favourite leisure and spiritual destination. Beneath the continued glorification of Bali's traditional culture and tourist attractions do hurt the people living there, and I cannot agree more. After all, perhaps art is best when revealing and holding onto hope that healing will begin with more people seeing the presented truths. 

"Balinese are human too. They have their own issues and often we do not talk about it because it is not comforting enough. What we need now as a society in Bali is to discuss more contemporary issues in order to reflect and recognising the problem."
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