The Seen and Unseen (Sekala Niskala) : ‘TIFF’ Review
The Seen and Unseen (Sekala Niskala) | Dir Kamila Andini
The dry visual aesthetics dazzling with the heartfelt characters on Indonesian countryside balancing the profound concept of dualism & headspace of childhood, The Seen and Unseen (Sekala Niskala) is a film that would stay for long and perhaps adjust your spiritual self with a new hope of dealing with crisis & loss.
Sekala Niskala (The Seen and Unseen) is a Balinese concept centering around the existence of dualism guarding the way of life. Like worldly space dealing with a physical existence that would be incomplete without spiritual attainment. Literally translated, sekala is “within time” and Niskala is “beyond time.” It essentially speaks about respecting the unseen, the spirit, and believing in the hereafter to traverse our life journey aligning with “beyond time” unseen presence.
Kamila Andini stems the deep-felt concept from her personal holistic experience and weaves an unsettling and atmospheric mood piece around the Sekala Niskala. Shown through the eyes of twin siblings, she creates a somber tasting folklore that is chilling and disturbing that effortlessly sweeps into the constant ambiguity of realism and myth. It immerses itself in a hazy dream space, often romanticising surrealism, that is structured around a powerful emotional arc.
Kamila Andini, without any gimmick or melodrama, quite smartly infuses the innocence of 10 years old twins to create a literal and metaphorical duality explaining Sekala Niskala. The whole genuineness and honesty in the writing make the experience immersive and emotions tangible.
The film opens in the hospital where Tantra is hospitalized after falling seriously ill. Tantri is scared of a hospital ward. She is reluctant to enter the room to visit Tantra. Tantra is diagnosed with a brain disease that makes him lose his senses gradually and weakens him physically. The shift in Tantri’s daily routine caused by a void in Tantra’s absence flutters her emotionally. The fear of losing him, like losing a part of herself, stirs an avalanche of harrowing emotions that perturbs her. To fill the void and cope with the grief over the impending death of Tantra, she finds a spiritual way to re-engage with Tantra.
Surrendering herself to the moon, the glorious night breaths silence and earth yearns for divination which eventually paves the path to mystical appearances of expressionless kids who are rolling in a circular manner. The film gets even hazier and drifts in surrealism blurring the emotional and spiritual curve, reality and imagination, and establishing that reality in a cultural sense is surreal. The dry visual aesthetics dazzling with the heartfelt characters on Indonesian countryside balancing the profound concept of dualism & headspace of childhood, Sekala Niskala (The Seen and Unseen) is a film that would stay with you for long and perhaps adjust your spiritual self with a new hope of dealing with crisis and loss.