Indonesian Faust in silent film with live music

Setan Jawa

Garin Nugroho, Rahayu Supanggah, Iain Grandage

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The island of Java suffered from grinding poverty at the beginning of the twentieth century. People sought refuge in Javanese mysticism, especially the mystic practices which promised wealth. Setan Jawa (‘Javanese devil’) is the tale of a poor man from the countryside who falls in love with the daughter of an aristocratic family. He makes a pact with the devil to become wealthy and gain her hand in marriage. The price of this happiness unfolds in a tragic love story. Director Garin Nugroho – whose films include Opera Jawa which was screened at the International Film Festival Rotterdam – took inspiration for his new silent dance film from the dark atmosphere and style of classic films including Nosferatu and Metropolis. The soundtrack is performed live by the Rahayu Supanggah Gamelan Orchestra and the Nederlands Kamerorkest. Composed by Rahayu Supanggah, who has previously collaborated with Robert Wilson, and Iain Grandage. A magic-realist masterpiece of contemporary Indonesian cinema.

Programme book

Background information

Setan Jawa from director Garin Nugroho is inspired by many things. German, black-and-white classic films like Nosferatu (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1922) and Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927) form one such source of inspiration. Another is wayang: Indonesian shadow 

puppetry that is usually accompanied by gamelan music. The traditional yet ever-popular wayang performances are seen by many as the precursor to film because of the way in which stories are told by the shadows of puppets against a large white screen. For Nugroho, these shadows are a type of magic realism; they exist somewhere between reality and shadow reality. Nugroho sees this shadow reality as a world in itself, where colour is made up of an endless number of shades of grey. In his film Opera Jawa (2006), which was subsequently made into a theatre production, Nugroho tells a classic story from the wayang tradition. With Setan Jawa, a silent dance film in black and white and accompanied by live gamelan music, he goes one step further.

Another source of inspiration that Nugroho and art director Ong Wahyu cite is the painter Tjitro Waloejo (1912-1990). He is known for his paintings of pesugihan in the 1940s and 1950s. Pesugihan comes from Javanese mysticism and is a ritual for making a wish come true by making a pact with the devil. These wishes are usually related to money, power or love. During the years in which Waloejo produced his most well-known work, following the Dutch and Japanese occupation and the Indonesian National Revolution, Java was struck by extreme poverty. Pesugihan was a popular refuge at the time.

The Javanese composer Rahayu Supanggah wrote a new soundtrack for the film in collaboration with the Australian composer Iain Grandage; Supanggah was responsible for the gamelan music and Grandage added an orchestral part. Supanggah is known for his popular and modern gamelan compositions. At its world premiere, which will take place at the Asia Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts in Melbourne in February 2017, this soundtrack will be performed live by Supanggah’s own gamelan orchestra with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. The Netherlands Chamber Orchestra will take the place of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for the performance at the Holland Festival.



Garin Nugroho (1961, Yogyakarta) is an Indonesian director who is known for the variety of styles and genres of his work. Nugroho creates short films, documentaries, promotional films, feature films, film essays, children’s films, musical theatre, installations and 

performance videos. He writes columns and reviews for a range of publications. He has also written books on Indonesian art, television and film. He was commissioned by the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam to rework his film Opera Jawa  (shown in 2007 at the International Film Festival Rotterdam) into a musical theatre performance. His exhibition Air Mata Dalí was shown in Yogyakarta in 2016. He will be making his debut at the Holland Festival with Setan Jawa.


Rahayu Supanggah (1949, Indonesia) studied gamelan at the conservatory in Surakarta, where he completed his studies in 1972. Since then, he has travelled the world introducing and popularising Indonesian gamelan music. Supanggah had his breakthrough with Realizing Rama, the soundtrack for Robert Wilson’s production La Galigo. He also wrote the music for Garin Nugroho’s film Opera Jawa. He won awards for this at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival, the Indonesian Film Festival and the Asia Film Awards. He was also honoured at the SACEM Film Festival in Nantes, France (2006) and the Asian Film Festival in Hong Kong (2007).

Iain Grandage is an Australian composer, conductor and musician. He has received the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award. Iain has also won five Helpmann Awards for his theatre work: for Best Music Score (Cloudstreet, The Secret River, When Time Stops) and for Best Music Direction (Little Match Girl, Secret River). He collaborated with the Australian singer Kate Miller-Heidke (performing in Sunken Garden and The Book of Sand at the Holland Festival) on her successful children's opera The Rabbits (2015).


The Netherlands Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1955. It merged with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra in 1985 Gordan Nikolić has been the artistic leader and concertmaster since 2004. The orchestra usually plays without a conductor. It recently performed The Magic FluteLucia di Lammermoor and Il viaggio a Reims at the Dutch National Opera. The Netherlands Chamber Orchestra last performed at the Holland Festival in 2016 in Merlijn Twaalfhoven’s Grand Subphonia at the Holland Festival Proms.


Focus: music from Indonesia

Following the focus on Turkey and its neighbouring countries (2015) and on the Edges of Europe (2016), this year’s special focus is on music from Indonesia. In the islands, many styles and genres exist next to each other in a fascinating way. We present a selection of contemporary work: noise from the streets of Yogyakarta and folk from strictly Islamic Aceh, to modern Indonesian composers.

We show collaborations which transcend boundaries from artists from different corners of the archipelago. Rahayu Suppangah wrote the music for Setan Jawa, a new silent dance film by Garin Nugroho. Indonesian composers and musicians work with Ensemble Modern from Frankfurt in Ruang Suara. We are presenting A Night in Indonesia in Paradiso, with the latest music from the Indonesian underground, including the EDM duo Filastine & Nova Ruth and Senyawa’s acoustic metal. At the Holland Festival Proms the visual artist Jompet Kuswidananto is presenting an opera installation about censorship in art. The audience can also enter the Temple of Time by the Indonesian-Dutch composer Sinta Wullur. The context programming explores topics such as Javanese mysticism and joint Dutch and Indonesian historiography.
Discover the sound of modern Indonesia.


Garin Nugroho
Rahayu Supanggah, Iain Grandage
assistant composer
Setyawan Jayantoro
music performed by
Rahayu Supanggah Gamelan Garasi Seni Benawa, Nederlands Kamerorkest
produced by
Jala Adolphus, Rina Damayanti
tour manager
Fafa Utami
Garin Nugroho Workshop, Turning World: Kate Ben-Tovim
Asia TOPA - Arts Centre Melbourne, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Esplanade Theatres on the Bay, Singapore.
director of photography
Teoh Gay Hian
Danang Agung
art director
Ong Wahyu, Edy Wibowo
line producer
Fafa Utami, Nova Teguh
1st assistant director
Winaldo Artaraya Swastika
2nd assistant director
script continuity
assistant script
production assistant
David Natsumi G., Ade Mindarwan
assistant camera
Aan Malik
camera boy
Imam Yudha Permana
Asmara Abigail (Asih), Heru Purwanto (Setio), Dorothea Queen (Ibu Asih), Luluk Ari Prastyo (Setan Penggoda), Danang Pamungkas (Punokawan Laki-laki), Anggono Kusumo W (Setan Penyerang), Bambang Besur (Setan Kemayu), Ibnu Sukodok (Setan Tua), Rusini (Nenek Asih), M. Fathan Irsyad (Setan Kecil), Kristiyanto (Pelayan Laki-laki), Adriana (Pelayan Perempuan), Otniel Tasman (Setan Perusak 1), Kristiyanto (Setan Perusak 2), Adi Nugroho (Setan Perusak 3), Ari Yandhi (Menir Belanda), Matheu Mergans (Tentara Belanda)
Retno Damayanti
Andhy Pulung, Dodi Chandra
Agus Bagong
dolly operator
lighting guard
production designer
Ong Wahyu
art crew
Rifat Satya, Candra Brow, Septian Gemboel, Faruq Dhanu, Paicong
art driver
Pak Rebo
Ruri Widiarto, Anggit Tyaswari, Ari Yandhi