Humboldt Forum
© Erik Wirasakti
Setan Jawa. © Erik Wirasakti

August 30, 2018

In the kingdom of shadows

The exhibition and program [sound] Listening to the World will conclude in late September with a screening of the silent film Setan Jawa, with live orchestral accompaniment. This German premiere of a new masterpiece by avant-garde Indonesian director Garin Nugroho aesthetically underscores the Humboldt Forum concept.

The concept behind Setan Jawa is utterly unique: a silent black-and-white film with Indonesian shadow puppetry, modern dance and a traditional gamelan orchestra with five singers, supplemented by a European orchestra – all coming together to create a fascinating Gesamtkunstwerk.

In this love story, a poor villager called Setio tragically falls in love with the beautiful Javanese princess Asih. In order to win her love he makes a pact with the Devil. Set in colonial-era Indonesia, the tale is inspired as much by the island kingdom’s vibrant mysticism as it is by 1920s silent German film. The classic film Nosferatu, directed by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, provided the springboard for well-known Indonesian avant-garde director Garin Nugroho to reinvent the world of shadows.

This encounter between tradition and modernity culminates in the contemporary composition by the influential Indonesian composer Rahayu Supanggah – who is regarded as having breathed new life into gamelan music and has worked with Robert Wilson, among others – and the prize-winning Australian composer Iain Grandage. The music, which has been written specially for this film, is to be performed by the Javanese gamelan ensemble Garasi Seni Benawa and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, and conducted by Iain Grandage.

Setan Jawa. © Erik Wirasakti
Setan Jawa. © Erik Wirasakti
Setan Jawa. © Erik Wirasakti

The film concert, which premiered at the Arts Center Melbourne in 2017, will be performed for the first time in Germany and in this particular constellation. The joint project between the nineteen-strong Javanese gamelan ensemble and the twenty Berlin musicians is entirely representative of the kind of programming the Humboldt Forum will be undertaking from the end of 2019 onwards, with the emphasis on playfully linking traditions and aesthetics, spanning continents and centuries. The Humboldt Forum is an international platform for dialogue and artistic encounter.

Since March 2018, the exhibition [sound] Listening to the World along with its accompanying programme have impressively demonstrated that the Humboldt Forum will be a venue for sounds, too. On 22 September 2018, [sound] Listening to the World will be concluding with a tremendous crescendo, thanks to the fascinating festival production of Setan Jawa.

Stummfilmkonzert Setan Jawa

Concert Setan Jawa – The Javanese devil

Venue Haus des Runfunks, Großer Sendesaal, Masurenallee 10, 14057 Berlin
Tickets 20 Euro

Doors open 6:30 pm
Introduction 7 pm, in German
Time 8 pm
Duration 70 minutes, without break

Spread the word