Sunday, September 15, 2013

Saiko: Pencuri Otak

It occurred to me as I sat down and watched Psiko Pencuri Hati today, while shushing monkeys who managed to buy tickets, that I probably should have watched and reviewed this movie first, before Tanda Putera.

The reason being Psiko Pencuri Hati also ends its screen run in a couple of days and it needs all the help it can get, simply because it is one of the best local movies to be released this year, if not THE best. If you can catch it, please buy a ticket.

The premise is excellent - four main characters, each with a specific mental illness - is on an island resort with two other people. One of them gets killed and they quickly realise that the killer - of the serial kind - is one of them.

I believe the movie should have been titled Saiko, because Psiko might make the monkeys call it 'Pesiko' instead. This is one of the reasons I believe the film is not doing that well at the box office. Also, a lack of promotional budget does not help. This is a shame, and maybe a last ditch effort by Lim Guan Eng to ban it might help ticket sales.

Great premise, good idea, but it suffers somewhat in the beginning and is also afflicted with a hasty third act.

At the start, we meet O. Sidi (OCD, geddit? But he is NOT suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. He's... something else), a novelist who has not completed his book for the past three years. We also meet his roommate, Man, who is often depicted as his polar opposite, and possibly as having a sexual relationship with Sidi.

This is due to the many shirtless scenes between the two. I have stayed with nine other guys before, for four years, in a 900sqft apartment and I have not been shirtless with my many housemates as often as those two did in an hour plus. That, is foreshadowing, and a revelation of how Sidi and Man love as well as hate each other.

Some scenes were clear revelations of the actual relationship between the two. Man constantly taunts Sidi, egging him to either die or kill someone.

Then, we meet Wani and Khai - a couple with problems. Wani suffers from depression while Khai suffers from... having a wife with depression.

Anyway, the four eventually find themselves on an island resort, where a classic murder mystery is set. I love a good mystery, and trying to figure out the exact medical conditions of the four was also fun. But that's just me - I'm crazy.

I find the human brain to be very sexy. It transcends gender boundaries, sexual gaps and anything else. I believe that humans' desperate need to connect with one another is beyond physical but enters the spiritual, or mental.

Hence, Wani's immediate attraction to Sidi. Of course, this can be explained by the fact that women - in general, and I am being misogynistic - love men who understand pain. It is because women experience pain every month, at the very least. Men usually ignore or pretend not to be able to experience pain. It's the macho thing to do.

So before I go any further, I must say this: I once passed a kidney stone through my dick. The doctors told me the pain is akin to giving birth. Recently, I have experienced pain that exceeds even passing a kidney stone through my dick - having the barely digested remnants of Naga Jolokia (the hottest chilli known to man, exceeding 2 million on the Scoville scale) pass through my anus, at 4 o'clock in the morning.

The pain I experienced made me religious. So, ladies?

Back to the movie. The premise is great, the characters very deep, the performances adequate, and the mystery is a breath of fresh air.

However, the film suffers a bit from obvious hints at the start, as well as great delivery that doesn't belong in a film. Amerul Affendi's performance as Man is commendable, but some of his lines sound they belong on stage rather than in a movie.

On stage, you can use awkward words and phrases and it would not be out of place. You can pause for half a second or a full second or two, and the energy can be carried forward. Unfortunately, in a film, gaps, pauses, silences, etc - without any purpose, deliberate alternate shots or music - feels empty. It might have been deliberate, considering the true nature of all the characters, but in the first part it seemed out of place amidst his other wonderfully delivered lines.

In essence, Amerul's scenes were some of the best in the movie. Need to see more of him. Soon.

It is refreshing to see Sharifah Amani playing someone other than Orked. I have watched most of her movies, including Sayang You Can Dance, but they have all been one character. With Wani, I was expecting her to burst out with spunk (the spirit, not the bodily fluid) but she delightfully did not.

I prefer Bront Palarae's character here than in Bunohan. In Bunohan, he was capable and dangerous. Here, in Psiko Pencuri Hati, he is weak, exposed and generally a loser. Good stuff.

Syed Hussein reminds me of Norman Hakim. He could have pulled off Tun Haniff Omar in Tanda Putera, or an aristocratic bastard in another movie. His character of Dr Khai is aptly annoying - you just want to punch this guy in the face.

The third act feels forced, with two flashbacks to quickly solve questions about two of the main characters and to reveal the real killer. The very last shot could have been executed better if Man was positioned with another group of people in the scene rather than with the one he ended up talking to.

I like this movie - the story, the characters, the fact that we have a mystery film - but the execution leaves something (just a few things, really) to be desired. Perhaps with more time and Tanda Putera's RM4.7 million budget, director Namron could do something even more polished. For a local movie, this is as good as it gets, most of the time. Unless you count Bunohan, which skews the graph for everyone due to sheer brilliance and excellence of execution.

The theme of mental illnesses is also very refreshing. I saw a play once, produced by Lorna Tee - now a super-powered international film producer - called Otak Tak Center. That one was also about mental illnesses, and if I remember correctly, the statistic given was that 10% of Malaysians suffer from some form of mental illness, but most go undiagnosed. I might be wrong and if I am, that number could be very much higher.

I have friends who do suffer from real mental conditions. One came out recently with OCD, and I have visited people with real bipolar disorder/manic depression. It was my effort to diagnose myself as I suspected I was manic-depressive. Observing them, under medication, I can safely say I have nothing but a case of mood swings and minor drama queen issues.

I also did some work at an old folks' home where dementia has set on many residents. I remember an old guy who constantly tried to convince me that his children would pick him up soon. They never did.

Fortunately, none of my friends or people I know suffer from schizophrenia. It is impossible for anyone who has that condition to diagnose themselves and the Malaysian attitude towards mental illnesses is always deplorable.

Now, I have given clues to the mystery. I am trying to entice you to buy a ticket and watch Psiko Pencuri Hati and solve the mysteries of the murders as well as the human brain. I believe if you need to watch just one Malaysian movie this year, let it be Psiko Pencuri Hati.