1985. Secangkir Kopi Pahit – Bitter Coffee

Secangkir Kopi Pahit – Bitter Coffee

English title Bitter Coffee
Year of production 1985
Producer Nyoohansiang and Bambang Widitomo
Story and screenplay Teguh Karya
Cinematography Tantra Suryadi
Editing George Kamarullah
Production design Benny Benhardi
Music Eros Djarot
Cast Alex Komang (Togar), Rina Hassim (Lola)
Production company/World sales P.T. Interstudio
Format DVD in PAL format (Colour/100 min)
Togar accosts Sukarsih

Directed by Teguh Karya

Bitter Coffee is a strong and sobering film. It opens on the shores of Lake Toba in North Sumatra, as a Batak family celebrates (in a procession led by a band) the departure of their son who is going to the big city to be educated and to work. But an accident has just occurred on the lake, a woman has been drowned, and her maddened husband, Togar, in grief, interrrupts and breaks up the procession.

The film then traces Togar’s story. Togar is also from Lake Toba, and he has already tried his fortune in Jakarta, working first in a cement factory, and then as a reporter in a daily newspaper. In Jakarta Togar forms a liaison with a woman, Lola, who is older than he, and who has three children. In his work as a reporter, Togar investigates the case of a rape of a young woman, Sukarsih. Sukarsih is also from an outlying country area. She is brought to Jakarta in a group to find work as a live-in help, but on the way she is raped by the man in charge of the group. Togar’s poor handling of this case leads to his temporary suspension from the newspaper.

The film combines a rich and dense narrative, told in both flashbacks and flash forwards, with location shooting in some of the poorer areas of Jakarta, producing an effect of complexity and toughness at the same time. The film concentrates on Togar’s psychological situation, showing how his work is dominated by his personal immaturity, as are his personal involvements. But centrally the film is raising the problems of the drift to the cities in the developing countries, and the pressures endured by those who try their fortunes in this way, particularly those who still retain some idealism.

Reading newspapers  in the warung

While Bitter Coffee received no prizes in Indonesia, it is one Teguh Karya’s most important films, and one of the few Indonesian films to have been selected for screening by Channel 4 Television in Britain. This video release version has been subtitled by SBS Television in Australia.

Availability: Between Three Worlds Video is licensed to sell this film on VHS video to anywhere in the world excluding Indonesia.