Writer Natalia Oetama and Director Yongki Ongetsu have produced a rather ominous film by the name “Heartbeat,” which was recently released on Netflix on June 2nd, 2022. However, the film was first released as “Tarian Lengger Maut” on May 13th, 2021, in Indonesia. It showcases vivid visuals and a gripping storyline. The Indonesian film industry has been booming since 2017, with an onslaught of absolutely terrific films produced in the last few years. “Heartbeat” is one such movie that has amassed quite an expectation from film lovers.
‘Heartbeat’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
Pager Alas, a village in Indonesia, receives their new doctor, who has come down to settle here from the city. At first glance, the doctor seems to have an upper-class background and does not seem very interested in the village. He introduces himself as Dr. Jati Arya to the locals and then retires to his home in the village. Since his appearance, the citizens of the village have started disappearing. None of the citizens turn up even when search missions are conducted.
Meanwhile, Pager-Alas is actually quite famous for its beautiful and vivid dance form, Lengger. Various townsfolk from other villages arrive to learn the dance form. Traditionally, this dance form was performed by both men and women alike to showcase gender equality. It is a mix of both masculine and feminine styles that creates a mesmerizing ritualistic dance that attracts the attention of the audience. In this village, Sukma, a prospective Lengger dancer, is getting ready to receive her Indang gift and become a full-fledged Lengger dancer. During a performance, she discovers the gaze of Dr. Jati, who is quite taken by her.
Jati attends every performance by Sukma and helps her when she falls unconscious during a performance after she receives her Indang gift. She discovers some closeted secrets about Jati and quickly flees his home. Jati notices something is off and chases after her, only to bring her back and die in front of her, marking the end of the movie.
The Doctor’s Obsession With Hearts
At first glance, “Heartbeat” appears to be a love story of sorts. The plot and the premise build up to a beautiful love story. A rich, handsome doctor takes notice and falls in love with an aspiring dancer—a rather fitting premise for a young adult storyline. However, as the story unfolds, the similarities begin to end. The doctor seems to suffer from an obsessive-compulsive disorder. He continuously arranges and rearranges his things until it sits right with him. Due to this, he notices even the slightest change in his surroundings.
As the story progresses, one by one, the townsfolk seem to disappear. The suspicions land on the doctor, quite rightfully so. Wherever somebody comes in for a check-up, they never seem to go back home, albeit the ones that do are never seen or heard from again after a while. The premise reveals that the doctor strikes the patient when he is alone and then takes him back to his chamber to operate on him while the patient is conscious. He only removes the heart of the patient, and the target is always of the male gender.
What Was Jati Arya’s Motive Behind The Killings?
During his check-ups, Jati is always fixated on the heartbeat of the patients. He is so fixated that the words spoken around him or any such noises escape his notice. He loses himself in a trance while checking the patient. The reason behind his unnatural behavior stems from a lonely past. When Jati was a small kid, he witnessed his father beating his mother till she died. Sobbing little Jati tried to make out her heartbeat, which was a sign of life. His obsession with heartbeats grew insatiable to the point that he took up the surgeon profession and settled in a village with next to no ties with the city.
He operated the heart out while his male patients were in their senses. This can be seen as a nod to his father being heartless and killing his mother in front of him, so the male patient doesn’t deserve a heart. He is comparing his father’s stature and face with that of the male patients. It could be a sick desire of his to prove that he cut out the heart as a punishment and preserved it because his father was alive and in his senses when he beat his mother. Ultimately, his heart was beating somewhere else, but he had lost his warmth and was stone cold due to killing a person. This could fuel Jati’s obsession with carving just the heart out. The trauma Jati’s father had put him through had resulted in an unnatural obsession with the sound of a beating heart and an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Also, he could reason that he only killed people who were unwell to put them out of their misery. He simply prolonged their suffering with his medication and ended it when he knew nobody would be suspicious of him. They were already ill, so a minor medicine to nudge the illness to progress more would not create any suspicions. However, the frequency at which he killed them created a mass suspicion of him.
He is also unable to comprehend feelings or any such emotions, and this ends up making him uncomfortable and uneasy. Feelings generally make him very uneasy. His mother had loved him and had tried to reason with his father before ultimately being struck down and killed. The trauma had left him unable to accept either his own feelings or those of others. He never killed a single woman in the village because he identified the female gender with his mother, who had lost her life saving him. He stuck to killing the male gender and, even after being discovered by Sukma, intimidated her but did not kill her.
‘Heartbeat’ Ending Explained – Did Dr. Jati Arya Kill Himself?
Jati found himself attracted to Sukma. When she performed for Lengger, it put him in an uncomfortable trance. It can be discerned as Lengger is associated with goodness and is a sacred dance of Indonesia where the spirits enter the body of the dancer and bless the townsfolk with goodness and also ward away evil. The dance transfixed Jati, and the spirit, after bestowing the Indang gift on Sukma, made her aware of the evil inside Jati. She saw glimpses that indicated what happened to the other villagers and followed her vision after she was left at Jati’s chamber so that he could take care of her. She discovered the hearts preserved in the glass jars with a polaroid photo of each villager with their names written on them as a souvenir to remember. She found Bayu’s heart with his polaroid beside the glass jar and was overwhelmed. Bayu was like a sweet brother to her and Wellas. She quickly tried to escape after she placed Bayu’s picture back. She excused herself when Jati came in and ran to escape back to her house. Jati had let her go and was not going to chase her until he discovered the misplaced picture and realized that she knew. Due to his OCD, Jati could immediately tell the picture was misplaced, and he rushed to chase after her.
The following sequence has him chasing after her in a car, and when she slips into the jungle, he follows with a flashlight. The sequence is nothing short of horror, and it generates chills with its progression. She tries to hide from him, but the sounds give away her position. The entire sequence is shot with great precision. He then confronts her and drags her back by her hair. She tries to escape but is finally knocked unconscious by him. When she wakes up, she notices him pacing uncontrollably. He has lost his calm and starts acting out, which scares her even more. This fit lasts till he destroys the cupboard holding the glass jars and then takes a scalpel and walks towards her. Sukma, terrified of him, screams and faints when he cuts off her bindings and frees her hand with the scalpel, only to thrust the scalpel at her hands and use it to carve his own heart out. He could have done this after he realized he was starting to resemble his father after he had hit Sukma to knock her out. He was also very uneasy and could not handle the emotions he felt for Sukma.
“Heartbeat” ends with both Sukma and Jati fainting. However, one fainted due to the utter terror she felt and the other due to blood loss and instability. Jati must have died due to blood loss, because his housekeeper, Mrs. Nah, was hard to hear. Amidst utter chaos and all the sounds of drilling and whimpering, Mrs. Nah never once came down to check or ever heard Jati when he brought a body or took the body out to dump it. Sukma must have woken up later to chaos and eventually sought help, but this is just a theory.
The film is directed by Yongki Ongetsu to uphold the Indonesian tradition of Lenggar dance and reinstate its position with a positive connotation. Due to Lenggar being danced by males who dress as females, the dance has been regarded as negative instead of the positive meaning it holds. Therefore, through “Heartbeat,” Ongetsu tried to uphold the supernatural belief of spirits, showing the roots of evil to the dancers and warding them out to safeguard the town. He also managed to bring out the psychological trauma a child can face in a broken family. Abuse and neglect can impact a child negatively and can result in behavioral disorders. This can truly push a person to commit crimes if it is not corrected at an early age. The trauma pushed Jati’s unhealthy obsession to a negative degree and allowed him to commit crimes that he could discern as positive. This is because he could argue that he was only putting them out of their misery. Ongetsu, through his direction, did try to defend Jati, saying that this was a scream for help and it should have been addressed before. Though Ongetsu had the room to introduce more elements, where someone could have discovered the body, he relied rather on the supernatural vision that Sukma had due to her gift, effectively upholding the tradition and also explaining the behavior behind it. “Heartbeat” could have ended a little better instead of the open ending because it is unclear if Sukma had also died due to shock. Jati did insist upon Sukma taking responsibility for her actions that made his heart stray, so it is clear he did not kill her and instead used her to kill himself. But, the shock can cause a heart attack, but it is unclear if that is what happened to Sukma.
“Heartbeat” was very exciting and stunning. The element of introducing Indonesian culture to the mainstream culture with stunning visuals simply left us amazed. The entire horror sequence was well shot with a backstory explaining his behavior through a more psychological aspect. However, the ending was a bit disappointing. Yet, the entire film was really enjoyable. It’s a must-watch and is named “Tarian Lenggar Maut ” if anybody is interested in watching the Director’s Cut.
‘Heartbeat’ or “Tarian Lenggar Maut” is a 2021 Drama Thriller film directed by Yongki Ongestu.