‘Trinil’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: Did Rara And Sutan Get Rid Of The Ghost?


Trinil: Kembalikan Tubuhku is a 2024 Indonesian supernatural horror film streaming on Netflix that has been adapted from a popular radio play from 1980. The story follows a couple, Rara and Sutan, returning home from their honeymoon only to face some strange and spooky occurrences at their tea plantation home. Overall, Trinil is not the best horror film that Indonesia has to offer, and its intensity is often worn out by a lack of convincing special effects, but it might still entertain fans of South-East Asian horror to some extent.

Spoiler Alert

What is the film about?

Set on a tea plantation in Indonesia’s Central Java region, Trinil begins on a night when three workers at the place gossip among themselves. The topic of conversation is the strange death of one of their co-workers, Sugi, who had no heart problems whatsoever and yet had supposedly died from a heart attack. One of the workers reveals that Sugi actually suffered some kind of sleep paralysis, which eventually killed him, and he apparently even mentioned the name of Madam Ayu during this time. As understood from the three men’s conversation, Madam Ayu was a woman belonging to the Saunder family who owned the plantation, but her name is not to be mentioned much. That night, one of these three workers, Jalu, is suddenly woken from his sleep, and he hallucinates a severed head floating in front of him. By some supernatural powers, Jalu is hanged from a noose on the ceiling, and when his body is discovered the next morning, he is believed to have committed suicide.

Three months after the unnatural incident, a couple travels towards their home in the Saunder tea plantation, having returned to Java from their honeymoon. Rara and Sutan had married a few months earlier and so had gone off for a long vacation together, shortly after Rara had inherited the plantation and the business from her late father, Willem Saunder. But their return to the house is not pleasant at all, as Sutan is woken up on two consecutive nights by his wife, seemingly suffering from dangerous sleep paralysis episodes. On each of the occasions, Rara looked disturbed and possessed as her body contorted, making Sutan call for help from the longtime caretaker, Joko. A number of incidents, like the heavy rain during the afternoon when the couple returned home and a series of operational setbacks at the tea plantation, make it seem like something odd is in the works. Very soon, Sutan gets a terrible scare when Rara is once again possessed in her sleep, levitating in thin air as well, and a decapitated head appears out of nowhere. Horrified by the incident, Sutan reaches out for help from an exorcist, and some dark secrets from the Saunder family’s past are soon revealed.

Who is Yusuf?

Sutan first comes across the name of Yusuf in the newspaper when he reads an article about the man having helped the mayor’s family repel some effects of voodoo performed on them. As soon as Sutan sees the photo of the man in question in the newspaper article, he realizes that Yusuf is actually his friend from high school. Sutan and Yusuf had studied at the same high school in Malaysia before their paths were revealed, so he visited the clinic to meet with the renowned exorcist. Although Yusuf is trained in psychology, and he admits that he is still a psychologist by profession, he has a special affinity for cases that seem to be paranormal. It can be guessed that Yusuf likes investigating special cases in which the patients seem to be afflicted by ghostly troubles and then determining whether their problems are indeed supernatural or psychological. But Trinil does not question the presence of the supernatural, and in its world, psychological struggles are the real rarity. In fact, the incident that Sutan witnesses at Yusuf’s clinic has a young girl run out of the ward frantically, initially seems like a case of schizophrenia. But very quickly, she shows signs of a demonic possession, as her eyes turn gray and her body contorts in impossible ways.

Along with being trained in medical science, Yusuf is also well-versed in religious techniques for dealing with spiritual and supernatural matters, and he uses the latter to treat his patients. Through its brief but creative opening sequence, Trinil established the exact timeframe of its plot—late 1977 or early 1978, when there were calls in many regions of the country to have Indonesia adopt Islam as the primary religion. Therefore, the characters seen in the film and their ways of fighting against supernatural elements are all based on remedies accepted in the Islamic religion. When Sutan presents himself and his problems to Yusuf, the latter recognizes his friend from school and immediately agrees to help him out. Yusuf’s first examination of the house is by placing a glass of water, mixed with some specific salts, inside the couple’s bedroom and asking Sutan to see if the water would turn dark. Indeed, by the next morning, the water in the glass turns extremely dark and muddied, signifying that an evil spirit is present.

However, Yusuf also cannot carry out his investigation very well, as Rara is not very fond of him. While Rara initially totally denied the presence of any spirit at her house, she did witness the floating head and then simply wanted it to be exorcised and stopped. However, she does not let Yusuf get inside her late father’s room, and neither does she give any good reason for her order. Within his short stay, the exorcist gets the feeling that Rara and Sutan are not telling him the whole truth, and this becomes more evident when he sees that no photographs of Rara are there at the house. Rara’s mother was called Rahayu, mostly referred to as Ayu, and this was this woman’s head that was haunting the plantation. Speaking with the caretaker, Joko, Yusuf learns that although Rara and Sutan had told everyone that Ayu went off to the Netherlands after her husband’s death, nobody actually knew where the woman was, and she had mysteriously disappeared.

What had happened to Ayu?

During his investigation of Ayu, Yusuf is led to an old woman known as the Widow, who stays some distance away from the tea plantation. The Widow happens to be Ayu’s mother, and she reveals what exactly happened to her daughter. Ever since her childhood days, Rahayu wanted to become a madam, meaning the wife of a rich man, and this was her only dream and aspiration in life. When she was a teenager, Ayu visited a renowned shaman in the region with the hope of making her desire come true. The shaman performed some grave rituals on the girl, and she agreed to sell her soul to the devil at this time only so that she would be able to marry a rich man. Within a short time, Ayu grew very physically attractive and became a topic of discussion among men. She came across the young businessman, Willem Saunder, at the market one day and immediately charmed him with her looks. The two got married, and as Willem was already the owner of a rich family tea plantation by then, Ayu’s dream of becoming a madam came true.

The trope of selling one’s soul to the devil is almost always a metaphor for the over-reaching ambitions of such individuals in stories of horror and drama. In this regard, Ayu is perhaps no different from Macbeth, with the exception that her character is kept completely one-dimensional, without any positive side whatsoever. The woman selling her soul to the devil only to get wealthy was not evil enough, so she went on to become a horrible mother who conspired against her own child. The initial years of her marriage were very enjoyable, as Willem showered all his love and attention on her, but this situation changed when Ayu became pregnant and gave birth to little Rara. Willem naturally shifted all his focus to his beloved daughter, and this made her mother jealous beyond measure. Ayu started conspiring to remove Rara from the world in any way, and she even tried to get her daughter killed by making her venture out to the dangerous slopes of the hills. Although her father managed to save Rara on that day, the animosity between the mother and daughter continued to grow.

Finally, when Rara turned eighteen, Willem wrote off all his wealth and property in her name, making Ayu livid and vengeful. She confronted her husband about the matter, and her harsh choice of words hurt Willem to the extent of causing him a heart attack. As the man fell sick and was restricted to his bedroom, the mother and daughter entered a direct battle against one another. While Rara cared for her father and wanted to nurse him back to health, Ayu only cared about his money and remained determined to get hold of his wealth. One final day, Ayu managed to make Willem change his will and sign off all his property in her name by threatening to kill Rara otherwise. The daughter did not care to take any action even now, but she finally had enough when Ayu got intimate with Willem’s male nurse right in front of him, causing him to die. Rara barged into the room and killed her mother, Ayu, by simply chopping off her head.

Why was Ayu’s head haunting the tea plantation?

When Willem fell sick, his doctor left a male nurse at his house to take care of the man, and this nurse happened to be Sutan. This was how Sutan and Rara met, but there was no romantic relationship between them. Eventually, Ayu seemingly forced Sutan into her plans, making him accept getting intimate with her in front of Willem, the shock of which killed the husband. When Rara killed her mother, Sutan begged for forgiveness, stating how he had been forced into the arrangement. Rara agreed only on the condition that Sutan marry her, and the nurse easily agreed to it. Till the end of Trinil, it is not very clear as to why Rara wanted to marry the nurse, and the only probable explanation is that she was already romantically interested in him.

After the murder of Ayu was committed, Rara and Sutan together buried the body in one of the sheds at the plantation, set the severed head on fire, and then stored it away in a box. It was this manner of disposal, for her severed head was not kept together with her body, that made Ayu’s vengeful spirit return to the tea plantation and haunt the place. During her childhood, Rara was given the name Trinil by her father Willem, and now, the ghostly severed head of Ayu calls out this very name and asks to be united with her body. Although it initially seemed like Ayu was the wronged victim as she had been mercilessly killed, this is actually not the case. Even after her death, Ayu’s spirit wanted to ensure that no good would happen in Rara’s life, and this is why she kept killing the workers at the plantation and causing difficulties like droughts and diseases to hurt the business. 

Did Rara and Sutan get rid of the curse?

When the Widow tells Yusuf about the events from the past, Sutan also reaches the place looking for his friend and overhears the whole conversation. The Widow had mentioned that in order to stop Ayu’s vengeful spirit, her head needed to be buried together with the rest of her body. Sutan soon kills Yusuf, as he does not want any outsider to harm his wife because of the murder she had committed, and then heads back to the plantation. He digs up Ayu’s body and buries the severed head with it, which briefly stops the spirit’s attacks. However, the ghost returns within a few days, this time in the form of her entire corpse, making it clear that her deal with the devil had made her undefeatable. 

In Trinil‘s ending, Ayu’s ghost causes chaos and kills Sutan, which is perhaps the ultimate punishment for the character who had committed multiple betrayals over the duration of the film. Next, she attacks Rara and tries to kill her, too, but Joko and the local cleric intervene. The cleric’s prayers defeat the ghost, and Rara is saved. The whole experience, and particularly an imaginary conversation with her father in a dream, convinces Rara that she needs to let go of all her grief and anger. The only way forward for her is to forgive her mother and treat her body with respect. Therefore, Aya’s grave is also made along with that of Willem and Sutan, and Rara regularly pays her respect to all three of their memories. While Rara and the rest of the plantation appear to be at peace, a final tease at the end of Trinil shows Ayu’s hand suddenly come out from under her grave, suggesting that the evil spirit will return. After all, the Widow, who now reunites with Rara, handed Yusuf a small book, which was the only object that could defeat Ayu, and perhaps this book would be used if Trinil ever has a sequel. 

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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