The Representation of Traditional Culture in Contemporary Art Forms : An Analysis of Indonesian Expanded Cinema Depicting a Magical Pact with a Spirit

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This article considers the representation of elements of traditional culture in contemporary art forms by analyzing Indonesian director Garin Nugroho’s expanded cinema “Setan Jawa” released in 2016. This work is a silent black-and-white fi lm. It requires live performances of sound and music for the presentation. The integration of silent monochrome movies and live performances is a characteristic of the presentation of the work. This idea of presentation derives from two existing art forms: German expressionism and Javanese traditional shadow puppetry. The work depicts the story of a Javanese traditional spirit belief in which the main protagonist, a poor, young man, decides to make a pact with a spiritual being, the setan, for wealth and a luxurious house in order to marry a young aristocratic lady. Despite getting a luxurious house as their new home, the setan continues to destroy the house. The young man must repair it constantly, and is ultimately forced to become a pillar of the house after his death. His wife later discovers her husband’s pact with the setan and asks for forgiveness. However, the setan demands her body as compensation. The exteriorization of the image of the spirits and the magical world is realized by a variety of methods and techniques, such as magic realism, indication of the stylistic structures of the scenes, directions utilizing symbolic metaphors, and the presentation of the dance performances of the protagonists. Through the presentation of the fi lm, Garin Nugroho indicated that these innovative techniques were derived from Javanese traditional culture, including shadow puppetry. Through an analysis of the work, we can see the director’s strategies of representation where the elements of traditional Javanese art forms and the innovative techniques of contemporary art forms can be compatible. The director’s attempts exemplify the efforts of Indonesian artists to fi nd effective ways of representing elements of traditional culture in contemporary art forms.


  • Osaka Human Sciences

    Osaka Human Sciences 7 35-54, 2021-03

    Graduate School of Human Sciences, Osaka University

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