I’m a sucker for restored classics at a film festival. What better way to catch up on an unearthed masterpiece from yesteryear than in a boffed up print on the big screen in a crowded auditorium of like-minded cineastes. I knew nothing about Usmar Ismail’s 1953 film other than what the HKIFF programme told me: a rarely-seen classic from “the godfather of Indonesian Cinema.” Sold.
The story follows a young soldier, Iskander (A. N. Alcaff) as he returns home from the war against the Dutch to his fiancee, who still lives with her father and brother. They put a roof over his head and father-in-law even gets him a desk job, but it only takes a few hours before this tortured soul, haunted by his war crimes, has gotten himself fired and fallen in with his old war buddies, who have evolved into gangsters. Before the night is out, Iskander has broken curfew, committed murder and is headed for a tragic end.
It’s a great noirish script and there are plenty of dramatic moments that Ismail builds effectively, helped by some ambitious cinematography, however After the Curfew fails to truly come alive due to pretty lousy actiong from pretty much everyone onscreen. The deliveries are poor, timing off and the pacing of the whole pace feels hesitant when it should be taut and increasingly thrilling. That said, there is enough promise on display that I am curious to see more of Ismail’s work.