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‘Interchange’, or the transcendence of spirits (spoiler warning)
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‘Interchange’, or the transcendence of spirits (spoiler warning)

by The Daily SeniNovember 27, 2016

Traveler and film journalist Wendi Sia shares her thoughts on Apparat’s highly-anticipated Interchange, due for release in cinemas nationwide on 1 December 2016. Directed by Dain Iskandar Said, Interchange stars Iedil Putra, Prisia Nasution, Nicholas Saputra and Shaheizy Sam.


“Saya mahu pulang,”

kata Iva kepada Adam.

A death at the bar. A shard of evidence at a construction site. Another death within a modern architecture. Then a glimpse of prostitution, the mention of human trafficking, and eventually the involvement of the underground black market.

Interwoven with the above, a mysterious yet alluring lady entangled in the danger and crimes of the city.

Like how Bunohan is built around the context of desecration, demonstrating the desecration of stories of a land lost to greed and urbanisation, Interchange laments the loss of home and identity.

The blatantly polished look of the city interchanging with gritty and feral Nature from scene to scene — at times both collide to give rise to battles — illustrates the perpetual struggle between Nature and modernisation.

Interchange follows Detective Man (Shaheizy Sam) and forensic photographer Adam (Iedil Putra) as they investigate a series of deaths in the city. Meanwhile, Adam is drawn to his neighbour Iva (Prisia Nasution) to whom he connects the evidence of glass plate negatives found on the crime scene.

The repartee between Adam and Iva slowly reveals her burden of rescuing the souls of her Tinggang tribesmen that have been trapped inside glass plate negatives photographed by Norwegian explorer Carl Lumholtz a century ago. Together with Iva is Belian (Nicholas Saputra), the tribe’s spirit in the form of a human-bird hybrid, to help her complete her task.

Director Dain Iskandar Said seems to be a fan of avian imagery as it had previously appeared in Bunohan and now recurs throughout Interchange – symbolic of the emancipation of the trapped souls within the cage of this world.

The play of crime and deliverance denotes the encroachment and desecration of the untainted Tinggang tribe by the Norwegian explorer when he ventured into their lands. Cursed to live a hundred years into the modern world, those who do not belong to the concrete jungle have turned to corruption for the means of survival… until they achieve emancipation from the trap of the city and modernisation.

To put this film into context, I’ll exemplify the Karen tribe in Thailand. The livelihood of the Karen people who traditionally lived upland depended on subsistence farming. But when they were introduced to cash economy and the lifestyle of more modern lowland Thais for the sake of progress, they were slowly becoming displaced.

With no means of survival, many have turned to prostitution while the depressed have turned into opium addicts – forever trapped in the complex web of manmade sins and sufferings. This is a result of the following: increased contact with lowland Thais who deem the tribe’s unique lifestyle as ‘backwards’, interference with the tribe’s subsistence living, and the attempt to force the people out of their homelands and into the alien city to earn more cash.

For them, the city is the wilderness and Nature is their home. And now, they must find a way Home.

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“Ini bukan cerita awak,”

kata Belian kepada Man.

When Carl Lumholtz traversed and explored Central Borneo, he brought with him a device so strange and alien to the tribal women that they had thought it evil. In his attempt to narrate their stories, Lumholtz had inadvertently laid a century’s curse to the tribe in which their spirits are sealed in the photographic glass plate negatives taken by him.

For a century, the Tinggang people are forced to adapt and live amongst the modern man and their vices. The responsibility to free them fell into Iva’s lap as she is the Dayong of the Tinggang tribe, the person who releases trapped spirits. There are 38 people altogether in her tribe, and for how long Iva has been searching for the glass plate negatives across the globe we do not know, but her meeting with Adam marks the beginning of the end of her search.

“Sekarang ini cerita awak,”

kata Belian kepada Adam.

Adam himself could have been a reincarnation of Lumholtz, returning to undo the curse he had laid on Iva’s tribe. For instance, Adam falls into a spell whenever he comes into contact with pieces of broken glass plate negatives at crime scenes.

When Iva reveals her true self to Adam, placing him in front of the camera for his snapshot, the flash goes and Adam awakes submerged in clear river water, enclosed in a pristine, verdant forest. He glimpses the tribal women cleansing themselves in the river from the evil of being photographed. Seated beside him is Iva, and behind him, the camera ready in place to photograph the tribal women. In a daze, Adam passes a glass plate negative to Iva. Only then does he return to consciousness. This marks a turning point for Adam, and he realises he needs to help Iva finish her worldly business.

The final scenes of Interchange, particularly the confrontation of Adam and Man, could be seen as the struggle between the past and the present, the spiritual versus the material, and the traditional versus the modern. Man refuses to believe in the existence of the otherworld, chasing Adam with intention to save his friend from committing a murder. Nevertheless, Adam completes his worldly duty of emancipating Iva from her trapped worldly existence. With Iva’s tribal dagger, Adam breaks the glass plate negative of Iva, freeing her spirit, and finally Belian too could spread his wings and soar to the heavens.

Interchange might as well have been a reflection of ourselves today. If unshackled from worldly attachments and given the freedom, what would we do with our lives? Where would we go from here?

“Would they (the birds) know where to go if they were freed?”

said Adam to Iva.


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The Daily Seni
The Daily Seni delivers news on local arts and culture, aiming to provide insight into Malaysia's ever-growing creative community as well as provoke thought and discussion.
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