Richard Oh’s film Koper is a moral allegory of life in today’s Indonesia
Stripped of everything
Image courtesy of Richard Oh
They say every man has his price, but is one billion rupiah worth getting one’s hands dirty for? According to Noni, one of the characters in Richard Oh’s 2006 film, Koper (The Lost Suitcase), it doesn’t buy much. Nevertheless, the mere thought of having such an amount seems enough to derail an honest man’s life. Yahya (Anjasmara), the protagonist of Koper, is a civil servant who feels alienated and invisible in his workplace. He fares no better on the streets of Jakarta, where the film is set. Yahya lives with his wife in Kampung Melayu, a dense, maze-like urban community. Money is tight, but he refuses to abandon his principles for material prosperity. When Yahya stumbles upon a suitcase one night, he discovers the next day that some people – including his wife – have assumed it contains the proceeds of a recent one billion rupiah bank heist. Yahya refuses to open the case on the grounds that it is not his property, but its imagined contents nonetheless begin to affect his life and the way the people relate to him.
Yahya’s guardianship of the suitcase leads others to notice that he exists: neighbours want him to use the money they believe it contains to support the community; marketing agents queue to bring