The Forbidden Door‘s protagonist is not a starving artist, but a prosperous one learning that success can be just as torturous. The film opens on him sipping champagne while denying an art collector one of his gallery pieces, as it has already sold. The first few shots inside the art gallery give an initial impression that this may be a visually uninteresting film. This perception is shattered after Gambir and his wife leave the gallery, a crane shot swoops up and away, past a blazing marquee before we’re thrown into one of the coolest opening credit sequences ever (think James Bond meets Roman Polanski) and we see that director Joko Anwar has some flair to share.
I won’t try to summarize the plot which, like so many ambitious horror films, starts out strong, becomes a little convoluted, ultimately leaves the viewer thinking ‘wtf?’. The titular forbidden door that Gambir can’t enter actually has very little to do with the plot, but is just one of several catalysts that contribute to his insanity and paranoia. I will say that the gory moments were squirm-worthy but not gratuitous and evoked cheers from the After Dark audience.
As previously stated, the main character in an artist (a sculptor to be precise), and what is most striking about the film is the art direction. From Gambir’s art deco home to the ironic English Jakarta signage, many forms of art make their way into the every frame. Even Gambir’s haircut draws attention to itself;, it’s hip, suits the character perfectly and actually does quite a bit to aid Fachry Albar’s already strong performance.
Unfortunately this screening took place during one of the biggest storms Toronto has experienced in recent history. The feature was preceded by a Quebecois short film called Danse Macabre which was made even shorter by the storm shorting out the 35mm projector. We did not get to see the end of that very promising piece of work, and it also meant the feature presentation had to be screened using the digital projection of a preview copy. Not only would ‘preview only’ often appear on the screen in the middle of an intense scene, but there continued to be several interruptions and technical difficulties caused by the storm. A letter from the director was read before the screening in which he regretted his absence and recommended the audience remain seated after the credits. Due to the delays and the massive amount of people waiting to enter to watch Trick ‘r Treat, the film was stopped part way through the credits and the audience was ushered out, preventing us from seeing additional material that may have made the film’s ending make a lot more sense. I guess it’s a good thing the director didn’t make the trip from Indonesia for this screening, but I’m glad The Bloor is where I took shelter from the storm allowing me some involvement in the After Dark festival. I give the organizers and staff credit for persevering and finding a way to give The Forbidden Door its Canadian premiere.
Co-presented by the Reel Asian Film Festival, I highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys watching Eastern filmmakers’ take on the horror genre. Rest assured, bloody revenge and dark humour abound.