We might call someone who never leaves their home “agoraphobic” or “a recluse”, but in Japan, there is a unique word for these people: “hikikomori”, which literally translates to “pulling inwards.” There is an estimated million hikikomori in Japan alone. It is writer/director, Platon Theodoris, who explains this in relation to his new film, Alvin’s Harmonious World Of Opposites.
This quirky Australian independent film is a close character study of Alvin, a young man who hasn’t left his apartment in eighteen months. The film follows Alvin as his anxieties worsen due to a flea infestation and building-wide fumigation which may force him to leave his humble abode. As Alvin’s unease grows, a mysterious substance begins to leak from his ceiling, and further investigation reveals an otherworldly aspect to Alvin’s apartment, forcing him completely out of his comfort zone, and adding a spark of magic to his sheltered life.
On creating Alvin, Theodoris says that “he wanted to create a character who was completely oblivious to how his fears and obsessions had come to rule him. Most of us have a bit of this character trait in us – we’re not mindful enough of our emotions, our fears, and our attachments. Sometimes these little obsessions are endearing and wonderful and can lead us to creative and playful spaces, but sometimes they can also tip into something more sinister.
“During the writing of the screenplay, I had envisaged [theatre maker and performance artist] Teik-Kim Pok to play Alvin, and I was stoked that he agreed to take on the role,” the filmmaker continued. “I needed someone who could provide the emotional depth that the character required, while also delivering on the funny aspects of Alvin’s persona. I was absolutely certain that he would be able to bring both weight and lightness to the character.”
The film is Theodoris’ first feature, following several short films, commercials, and music videos. The nascent auteur studied filmmaking in Jakarta, and it is this link to Indonesia which helped the film get made, with Platon dubbing Alvin’s Harmonious World Of Opposites “an unofficial co-production between Australia and Indonesia”, with about a third of the film shot in Jakarta. The mix of Indonesian and Australian locations aids in creating the film’s unique style and spectacular scenery.
“Every location – its texture, mood, feel, and colour – was crucial in telling the story and creating the experience,” says Theodoris. “It’s an Australian film, with lots of local talent, and a big Indonesian component.” Much of the film’s music was supplied by the local Indonesian band, White Shoes And The Couple Company, and Alvin’s quirky apartment was meticulously designed by Sydney-based Japanese designer, Shin-Shin, whist other sets were designed by Jakarta-based Mas Duntur and his team.
Theodoris compares a feature film to a marathon and a short film to a sprint, and discusses the challenges of this shift. “I had to re-set my process and expectations,” he tells FilmInk. “You really need to pace yourself. Principal photography began way back in July 2013, and the development and writing started a good year before that, so it’s interesting to see it all come together on screen a few years later.
“Overall, it’s been lots of fun and very fulfilling for me – I was fortunate that all the cast and crew were super-supportive of my vision. It helps when you have a great team behind you. This film was willed into existence with the support and backing of many people who believed in the project.”
Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites is in the Narrative Feature Competition at the 2016 Slamdance Film Festival in Park City. Slamdance runs concurrently with Sundance and has been described as Sundance’s “Director’s Fortnight.”