Edwin's Awesome Threesome Vs. Indonesia's Moral Duplicity

Oka Antara, Agni Pratistha, and Nicholas Saputra engage in polyamory in Edwin's new short film, 'Variable No. 3.' (Photo courtesy of Kolektif Film)

By : Dhania Sarahtika | on 8:01 PM November 29, 2018
Category : Life & Style, Movies, Featured

Jakarta. "Variable No. 3" is the title of Edwin’s new short film, part of the biannual Asian Three-Fold Mirror omnibus. If you’ve seen the film – spoiler alert – you know that the variable is a third person who provides a solution to a couple’s strained marriage, not as a mediator, but as the third wheel in a ménage-à-trois.

It sounds crazy and naive to think of a threesome as a solution for troubled married couples, considering the current criminal code already criminalizes adultery involving a married person having sex with someone outside marriage.

Worse, the proposed revision to the code will make all extramarital sex a criminal offense.

But it’s interesting to think about the unthinkable and relate it to Indonesia’s increasing divorce rate.

From 2015 to 2017, almost two million Indonesians get hitched each year, yet over 350,000 couples file for a divorce, according to "Statistical Yearbook of Indonesia 2018," published by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS).

The number of married couples who filed for divorce continued to rise from 353,843 in 2015 to 374,516 last year.

The data were compiled from the Religious Affairs Ministry and the Supreme Court.

However, there is no information on the common causes of divorces.

Meanwhile, headlines that read "Celebrity Breakups We Didn’t See Coming" are a dime a dozen in the gossip pages.

Picture perfect celebrity couples who look so happy in the public eye suddenly drop the bomb that they are getting a divorce.

"Irreconcilable differences" is a phrase we are all too familiar with.

Gading Marten and Gisella Anastasia are the most recent example in Indonesia.

Their impending divorce announcement was followed by outpouring of sadness and sympathy from their fans.

In Edwin’s film, young and seemingly happy married couple Edi (Oka Antara) and Sekar (Agni Pratistha) look like they've got everything together as they gallivant through Japan on a holiday.

Until they meet a strange, half-Indonesian bed & breakfast owner and marriage consultant named Kenji (Nicholas Saputra), who bears a striking resemblance to Sekar’s ex-boyfriend.

Kenji asks the couple to participate in his study on Asian couples.

This is when Edi and Sekar find themselves slowly compelled to confront their bottled up marital problems.

At first they were in complete denial, arguing that they still have sex regularly.

But then we find out their seven-year marriage has not produced any offspring – uncommon among Indonesian couples, considering how much pressure society puts on married couples to have kids right away.

The last part of the study requires the couple to let Kenji be a "Variable No. 3," and so they engage in a devil’s threeway.

The final part of the act is Edi and Sekar’s. They have a brief moment of truth as Edi finally asks his wife a question about her past he’s been dying to know the answer to.

Scriptwriter Prima Rusdi said during a media screening two weeks ago that the film meant to explore uncomfortable zones in a marriage, triggered by this year’s theme for the Asian Three-Fold Mirror project: "Journey."

"Most people define journey as a physical movement from one point to another. They travel and post their photos on social media. But what do those photos really capture? Edwin shows that some people travel to get away from their anxieties or avoid things that need to be confronted," Prima said.

Transporting the characters to Japan was a way to find out what young couples like Edi and Sekar would do in an unfamiliar environment.

"Edwin wanted to expose these characters at their most uncomfortable point where they can’t run away from their problems. These characters aren’t in their usual environment. They are in a vulnerable position because they're in an environment they can’t control," Prima said.

Though the other two movies in the omnibus also deal with problems of communication between two subjects, Edwin's part is the only one that offers a definite solution – polyamory.

The other two movies in the omnibus seem to offer subtler answers, if not avoid them altogether.

Degena Yun's "The Sea" is about a mother and her daughter who bicker constantly during a road trip they take to heal from the death of their husband and father.

The movie ends on a hopeful note that their relationship will eventually get better.

Daishi Matsunaga's "Hekishu" is about a Japanese expat in Yangon who is working on increasing the speed of the railway system.

He meets a local seamstress he takes a liking to, but they have difficulties understanding each other due to the language barrier.

As he begins to get to know her and her family, his life slows down and he starts questioning the real purpose of his job.

Nicholas Saputra makes cameos in these two movies, as someone who provokes a confrontation (in The Sea) or forces the main character to question his purpose in life (in Hekishu).

So, what is Edwin trying to say about the "third variable"?

"The film was intended as a provocation. Kenji’s character is... not that real. He could be a projection of Edi and Sekar's [insecurities]. [He's] a trigger for them to confront their problems," Edwin said.

Edwin admits since he finishes the movie he has been asked many times what his "Variable No. 3" is.

"I don’t know the answer to that. It can be anything. If we have a [psychological] burden or an unfinished business, [we find] resolution within ourselves. Religion can be a variable, for example, a very personal one. In this movie, there are two characters people can relate to and one character that could be a projection [of their own fears]," he said.

Asian Three-Fold Mirror: Journey premiered at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in October, and you can catch a screening and discussion at the Jogja-Netpac Asian Film Festival (JAFF) on Dec. 3.

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