If you ever catch a neighbour taking pictures of you with a camera from his balcony, you should probably call security or even the cops.

Don’t try to be like Iva (Prisia Nasution) the lead female character in director Dain Said’s Interchange, who walks over to the neighbour’s house and asks for ice.

Interchange is a Malaysian film that has been getting a lot of publicity for many months now. However, even with all that exposure and a sleek trailer to boot, the movie’s actual plot remains vague to the curious viewer.

Now, after watching it, one still can’t figure out the whole story.

Interchange revolves around Adam (Iedil Putra) who works as a freelance forensics photographer for the Metropolis, specifically for Detective Man (Shaheizy Sam).

Adam seems to have a special gift that allows him to see certain visions. Man knows about this gift and tries to get Adam to embrace it as it sometimes helps him solve cases. Especially weird ones like the string of ritualistic murders that have been taking place in the city.

What’s strange about the murders is the way the bodies are left by the killer or killers – hanging from the ceiling with alien-like fronds coming out from inside the corpse. Also found at every scene are pieces of broken glass plate negatives, used in the olden days by professional photographers.

By this point, one is intrigued by the story, until more characters and subplots are introduced. First there’s Belian (Nicholas Saputra), a shady guy with deformed hands who roams the city’s dark alleys, careful not to make contact with strangers. When he does, he speaks in a kind of poetic prose.

Then there’s Sani (Nadiya Nisaa), a woman who also speaks like an out-of-place bangsawan from the days of yore. She owns an antique shop and Belian goes there to do some business involving those darn glass plate negatives.

Halfway though the film, one begins to wonder what the point of the story is. Is it a question of mortality? Morality? Justice? Love?

You’ll get it by the end of the film, of course, but the journey to that revelation is a bumpy one.

While the storyline is interesting and does have many plus points – such as the clever merging of modern and ancient cultures – how it is conveyed is awkward. Some subplots and back stories could have been left out. There is no need for us to know about Adam’s family, for example. The character who helps him develop the negatives could have just been that; instead, he becomes the guy who possibly knows everything but doesn’t actually do much.

Perhaps the strongest thing about Interchange lies in its visuals. The city is dark and dreary when it deals with otherworldly subjects. Adam’s all-white apartment reflects his vulnerable personality; Iva’s ultra minimalist apartment shows the emptiness inside her; Belian’s, uh, unconventional digs and bird decorations are representative of his feelings of isolation and his yearning for something.

There are a couple of good dialogues in the script, too, like Belian and Sani’s conversation outside the Metropolis that ends with the very poetic “kau hirup, kau hembus”. How that scene was acted out, however, is not that beautiful.

My vote for best actor in this film goes to Shaheizy, who is a natural at playing a slightly cocky detective and a caring friend at the same time.

Iedil also deserves some praise for his portrayal of Adam. In fact, I give him top marks for his near-perfect Sabahan accent! (And that’s coming from a Sabahan.)

I had high hopes for Interchange not only because it was helmed by a talented filmmaker but also because of the story’s premise. It could have been a truly magical experience, but grand ambitions can sometimes hinder the execution of a single simple plan, and I think this was what happened with this project.


Director: Dain Said

Cast: Iedil Putra, Prisia Nasution, Shaheizy Sam, Nicholas Saputra, Alvin Wong, Nadiya Nisaa, Chew Kin Wah


Iedil Putra and Prisia Nasution in Interchange. Photos: Apparat