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Foreign Film Review through the Prism of Cultural Shock

Foreign Film Review through the Prism of Cultural Shock and “Foreign” Location Visit Plan

The phenomenon of culture shock is an inevitable part of cultural adaptation for any individual. Understanding the psychological mechanisms of cultural shock as well as an early acquaintance with foreign social norms can speed up the process of adaptation. People become familiar with other cultures through media such as TV, the Internet or radio, or through direct visits to their desired countries. Therefore, Pengabdi Setan and Eklutna village in Alaska was chosen as objects for the current research of the factor of cultural shock. Pengabdi Setan is a foreign horror movie directed by Joko Anwar. This choice is due to the fact that this genre often combines such plot elements as daily life and folk folklore or urban legends, which may be considered as fundamental pillars of the culture. Eklutna village is a unique place in which native, American, and Russian pre-revolutionary cultures are intertwined. The purpose of this work is to explore the phenomena of cultural shock and prepare a plan of cultural adaptation on the example of the object and location that were described above.

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Pengabdi Setan and Culture Shock Mechanisms

One of the claims about the “not-OK” feelings are inevitable and natural for the human psyche, but the individual can develop recovery processes of perception. Most of the setting of the film looks usual for the Western audience. Nevertheless, several cultural practices cause a sensation under discussion. They are Indonesian funeral rites and the structure of the bathroom (Anwar, 2017). Both of these setting elements are present several times throughout the film. The cultural shock comes from the fact that Indonesians bury the dead in bags and with open faces, and lay a stone under their neck (Anwar, 2017). The bathroom is a dull and damp basement, which also has a well inside (Anwar, 2017). The final scene, which is a dance, is also incomprehensible to the author of this report.

Due to the fact that a person often sees these cultural phenomena, one begins to notice signs that are familiar or similar to his culture, and recovery mechanisms start to improve. For example, among the Indonesians, the closest circle of relatives and friends of the deceased are also present at the funeral as in Western culture (Anwar, 2017). The Indonesian cemetery in the film has a similar design with European or American (Anwar, 2017). The bathroom also has identical devices, such as taps (Anwar, 2017). It is essential to mention that judging by the electronic devices used, the action takes place in the 70-80s of the twentieth century (Anwar, 2017). During the introduction to the new environment, a person remembers familiar cultural elements and begins to interpret the meaning of the rest through his culture. Therefore, the mind of the newcomer is ready for further similar cultural events. It is how a person develops psychological recovery mechanisms.

Pengabdi Setan and “Not-OK” feelings

Similarly, the disappearance of “not-OK” feelings happens through their recognition. The human mind interprets a new cultural environment through the prism of more or less familiar elements or practices. The individual is aware of what cultural factors provoked psychological disorientation when he or she reaches an understanding of the overall cultural picture. It applies to Indonesian funeral rituals and bathroom design features, too (Anwar, 2017). Once recognized and understood, certain cultural phenomena cease to cause an unconscious psychological shock and become a natural part of perception.

Visit to Eklutna

Brief Description

As mentioned above, the selected event is a visit to the village of Eklutna. It is because the local Native American culture is experiencing its cultural revival (Peckenham, 2018). The author of the report is very enthusiastic because of it, which indicates the Honeymoon Stage of cultural shock (“Stages and symptoms of culture shock,” n.d.). It is important to note that the village of Eklutna is the home of Dena’ina people (Peckenham, 2018). Even though cultural renaissance began several years ago, the beginning of the local environment originates from the eighteenth century (Peckenham, 2018). Eklutna is located in Alaska and, to be more precise, in the Chugach Mountains.

Visit Plan, Experience, and Reality

A similar cultural situation can be seen in other areas of the United States. The symbiosis of American and Russian culture is most noticeable on Brighton Bitch. An example of the joint existence of Americans and Native Americans is also seen in New York. The visit plan consisted of four activities, each of which takes half an hour. They are a visit to the spiritual cemetery, a prayer in St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, ramble in the Eklutna Historical Park, and chat with locals. What the author understood best of all is the history of this place, namely the cruelty of Russian traders towards Dena’ina people (Peckenham, 2018). This is very similar to the history of Native Americans and colonists, which causes Irritability and Hostility about the Russian element of the local environment (“Stages and symptoms of culture shock,” n.d.). However, it remains a mystery to the author why exactly small spiritual houses were chosen as an element of the funeral ritual.

This place initially seemed to the author in a very different way. It was the picture of a remote monoculture settlement of Native Americans that was destroyed later by the reality and realization during Re-entry Shock (“Stages and symptoms of culture shock,” n.d.). Large and medium-sized American cities are multicultural, but it often happens that cultures are strictly distant from each other by the district. However, despite the bloody past, Eklutna combined the United States, Russia, and Dena’ina culture. At the time of understanding this, the author reached the next stage of cultural shock, namely the Gradual Adjustment (“Stages and symptoms of culture shock,” n.d.). The literal material symbol of the Adaptation of Biculturalism of the locals and the author is the spiritual houses, which are the theological symbiosis of the mythologies of Native Americans and Orthodox Christians (“Stages and symptoms of culture shock,” n.d.). The final idea of ​​a significant difference from any possible expectations.

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This work is an analysis of such a psychological and social phenomenon as cultural shock. The study was conducted on the examples of Pengabdi Setan and visit in Eklutna village. The report contains an analysis of two critical points about the “not-OK” feelings as well as a plan and description of the visit to Eklutna. The description contains personal notes, feelings, and sensations interpreted through the five stages of cultural shock. The cultural and historical component of Eklutna was also analyzed. The conclusion is that despite the impossibility of avoiding cultural shock, one should be enthusiastic about getting involved in a new cultural environment and think without stereotypes.


Anwar, J. (Director). (2017). Pengabdi Setan [Film]. Rapi Films.

Peckenham, N. (2018). Alaska’s native people meet the Russian Orthodox Church. Web.

Stages and symptoms of culture shock. (n.d.). Web.

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