TADFF review: The Forbidden Door (only open it half-way!)
Last night’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival presentation of The Forbidden Door was, unfortunately, marred by technical difficulties, but that aside, Indonesian director Joko Anwar’s latest was a muddled take on David Lynchian tropes which failed to have the courage of its morbid convictions.
The plot: gifted sculptor Gambir (Falchry Albar) makes a living with his artful statues of pregnant women. Meanwhile, his “perfect” new wife Talyda (Marsha Timothy) has aborted their child (conceived out of wedlock). Gambir, beset by doubts about his talent, then finds a padlocked door in his studio, but Talyda portentously asks him never to open it. Well, the downward spiral of Gambir’s psyche is inevitable after that and he begins getting notes saying “Help Me,” and discovers a members-only club where, Videodrome-style, you can watch increasingly disturbing hidden camera dramas, including a little boy being abused by his parents. Gambir’s attempts to discover the identity of the child lead to a bloody denouement and the discovery of exactly what lies behind the forbidden door.
The Forbidden Door works best when it abandons itself to surreality, but Anwar’s adaptation of the Sekar Ayu Asmara novel is determined to explain itself. Whereas Lynch (an obvious stylistic influence) operates in his own moral universe, Anwar feels the need to punish perceived evil, even if the ultimate explanation seems contrived and emotionally pat.