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BERLINALE 2018 Generation

Review: The Seen and Unseen


- BERLIN 2018: Indonesian director Kamila Andini presents a fantastic tale about the metaphysical connection between a little girl and her terminally ill twin brother

Review: The Seen and Unseen

After a successful premiere at Toronto Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival's Generation section hosted the second feature film by the Jakarta-born director Kamila Andini. The Seen and Unseen [+see also:
film profile
, starring Tantri (Ni Kadek Thaly Titi Kasih), a ten-year-old girl who faces the imminent death of her twin brother Tantra (Ida Bagus Putu Radithya Mahijasena) builds a bridge between reality and a dream world. The film is a fantastic fairy tale about the metaphysical connection that unites two twins, an unbreakable bond that can't be understood rationally, but rather through the eyes of the local religion that enchants this film.

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This Indonesian, Dutch, Australian and Qatar co-production features the current of mystical philosophy that seems to dominate the island of Bali. Sekala/Niskala (the film’s original title) affirms the existence of the real and the supernatural in the same space in which human beings live. The Seen and Unseen sees the dead, spirits and ghosts of other ages visit the protagonists to talk to them and accompany them on their earthly journey. The second feature film by Kamila Andini has many similarities with Apichatpong Weerasethakul's cinema and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives in particular, with both films invoking the presence of the supernatural to immortalise saying goodbye to a terminally-ill patient. 

The film's quiet pace, as well as its lack of dialogue, encourages total immersion in this magical universe. But The Seen and Unseen is not strictly contemplative, it has two narrative axes. During the first half of the film, the director, who debuted with The Mirror Never Lies, shows us how Tantri comes to terms with the future death of her brother. When the boy has an accident and is forced to remain in hospital, we observe Tantri refusing to accept his new life without his playmate. But as soon as Tantri discovers the secrets of Niskala (the invisible), the fear of her brother's death disappears forever.

The assimilation of the magical dimension of reality is not just about the protagonist. The film itself undergoes a certain metamorphosis following this new mystical revelation. It’s at this point that The Seen and Unseen becomes a wonderful succession of dream sequences that transports us from one universe to another.

The Seen and Unseen was produced by the Indonesian company Treewater Productions with the support of Hubert Bals Fund from Rotterdam and the Doha Film Institute, among others.

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