Directed by: #PetrusKristianto
Kevin (Jap, Kevin Setya Wijaya) is an online taxi driver obsessed with Iron Man. Afif (Muhammad Afiffudin Al Badri) is a university student who likes searching for mosquitoes.
The reaction of “Huh? What did I just watch?” would be normal for What Times Mosquitos Are Sleeping? However, there is an almost ‘so bad, it’s good’ quality to the film.
The characters are eccentric and quirky. Kevin is self-centred, vain, eschews responsibilities and possesses delusions of grandeur. Afif is no less preoccupied, ignoring advice from his mother and walking around with a small, transparent bag determined to find mosquitoes.
The performances are fine, if slightly lacking. Exuding arrogance, delivering bizarre dialogue and making noises, Setya Wijaya understands the script’s humour. Unfortunately, he cannot scratch an unbearable itch convincingly. Co-star Al Badri believably delivers dialogue and looks distracted, but should appear more determined to find mosquitoes.
There are slight comparisons to Wes Anderson in Kristianto’s and Prayitno Santoso’s script as characters behave in a unique manner. The script also effectively depicts the extrovert/introvert relationship and contains good cringe humour like when Kevin plays with his bootleg Iron Man figure.
The bootleg quality does not necessarily extend to Fieqal Firman’s cinematography. He acknowledges the rule of thirds and the Kubrickian use of single point perspective when Afif is looking around motorbikes. Admittedly though, the cinematography is not brilliant, distinctive or adventurous enough when the top of someone’s head is cut off by the frame. This should have been reframed and reshot.
The editing by Rofi Imartyan Hafiz consists of long gaps between cuts immersing the audience in the narrative and dragging out the embarrassment. It is used comically when Kevin is sunbathing and the film cuts to a different angle of him on top of a car. There are weird, unprofessional choices like the opening title flying in and out, but having the scenes of Kevin scratching himself edited together demonstrates rationale.
In contrast, Fieqal Firman Hidayat’s score keeps repeating the same notes. In fairness, the minimalist, acoustic guitar is appropriately indie. However, it needs more as the score becomes boring, sinister and annoying which makes you want to yell “SHUT UP!!!”.
The locations chosen by Hadi Rahman feel like places lived and worked in like the university Afif attends or Kevin’s house. The dark field that Afif finds himself in looks interesting and Kevin’s bedroom has the most personality with its miniature Iron Man shrine.
Kevin’s fascination coincides with the film’s ideas of obsession such as his urge to scratch or Afif’s persistence to find mosquitoes. Disappointingly, the potential mosquito analogy is not fully explored as the film becomes so conceptually focused, the end result is impenetrable.
The plot progresses and stops at a strange place which gives it a lack of narrative closure. Specifically, the last, quite Lynchian, scene is confusing and only makes sense to those behind the camera. The quirkiness of What Times Mosquitos Are Sleeping? is not going to be for everyone and might annoy some people, but at least others could laugh at it.