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Sebastian Partogi has been working as a journalist and copywriter for Indonesia’s English newspaper The Jakarta Post since January 2013, specializing in leisure articles and health issues, as well as arts and literature. He has also translated novels and short stories by Ratih Kumala, Djenar Maesa Ayu, Sindhunata and Feby Indirani. 

Media Review


A Heartwarming Story of Loneliness

Sabastian Partogi (The Jakarta Post)

There are around 10 million people hustling and bustling in Jakarta each day, but any professionals living in this megalopolis know that being lonely is part of their lives, despite of all the noise and potential connections with others. Here is how a typical day for professionals goes by: First, they wake up so early in the morning to catch a commuter train to their office in downtown Jakarta. Then they spend roughly 30 minutes in the train — if nothing goes wrong on the tracks. to the office, they work eight to nine hours, depending in which industry they are in. Some industries, like start-up companies, can make their employees work up to twelve hours.

After a long day at work, they head to the train station again for the return commute home. And this is where the going gets really though, because after-office hours mean nightmarish traffic. Essentially, professionals in Jakarta probably have between six and eight hours of free time each day, meaning that they most probably spend it sleeping instead of doing leisure activities. And each day, they repeat this lonely cycle over and over again.

Loneliness and alienation in big cities have been a recurring theme in various artworks. The most famous one is probably American painter Edward Hopper’s 1942 Nighthawks, depicting loneliness in the United States’ New York City. As for Jakarta, Indonesian filmmaker Lucky Kuswandi’s 2014 Selamat Pagi, Malam (In The Absence of the Sun) also tackled the lack of genuine connections in megapolitan settings.

Indonesian filmmaker Paul Agusta recently his latest film, Kisah Dua Jendela (Daysleepers), addressing urbanites’ yearning to connect with each other in the city. This film specifically takes a look at Jakarta’s busy workers and to make the issue of alienation and loneliness more salient, Paul approaches the issue through the film’s two main characters, both of whom are night owls.

The central female character, Andrea (Dinda Kanyadewi), is an international online stockbroker who is required to work during the night to accommodate the waking hours of her foreign counterparts. She has to work alone in a tall offi ce building, with the building’s male security officer as her only companion. Andrea lives with her younger sister. Then there is the central male character, Leon (Khiva Iskak), a single father and a writer who can only work at night in a café, located just across the office building where Andrea is working. He finds his inspiration running dry as he tries to come up with a new manuscript.

In the café, we see him interacting with fellow night owls, which are the café owner itself (Joko Anwar) and bar owner Niken (Djenar Maesa Ayu), whose bar is located just down the street. She stops by the café to chat and relax after a long night of serving drinks. The story gets interesting when the night occupants of both buildings start to get curious about who roams the space across the street in the dead of night.

Andrea’s activities as a stock trader who works alone at night are interesting to follow. She repeats the same activities every day, followed by long periods of tedium in her office in a slow business season, communicating by phone with her foreign business counterparts.

Dinda is excellent at depicting the sense of loneliness that Andrea must feel, with the character often talking to herself while completing her shift alone in the office, something that most Jakarta office workers have done when there is really nobody they can talk to. Dinda also depicts the character’s solitude through her silence, giving viewers clues on what her character is feeling with subtle nonverbal expressions. Paul backs scenes of Andrea’s lonely nights with minimalist, droning sounds, which cleverly evokes the sense of boredom and numbness of day-to-day work without any meaningful human interaction.

The filmmaker also portrays how lonely urbanites try to distract themselves from that lack of deep human connection by playing constantly with our cell phones, or by making use of social media platforms, which really do nothing to cope with the loneliness. Nonetheless, the film also explores potentials where connections can happen —even in a crowded and fast- paced setting like Jakarta.

Daysleepers is an unforgettable and heartwarming film; anyone who works and lives in a big city will find something to love about its characters. The film captures the isolation and loneliness that Jakarta’s professionals often face through believable storytelling.

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