The Wild West may be a long-forgotten and largely fictionalised part of America’s past, but its mythology and tropes still captivate film-makers today. However, whilst American society has left (most of) that period of its history behind, many of the characteristics of that time are still at play in less developed countries. Indonesia, for example, has a shocking human rights record. One of the worst areas is women’s rights. Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts mixes western clichés with pressing current social issues.

On a small Indonesian island, Marlina (Marsha Timothy) is mourning the death of her husband. A group of men, led by Markus (Egy Fedly), arrive at her house; intent on robbing her of money, livestock and raping her. Marlina poisons the men with chicken soup and beheads Markus. Armed with a large knife and Markus’ head, she hitches a ride on the local bus along with the pregnant Novi (Dea Panendra), determined to report the crime to the police.

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts is a beautifully shot and powerful drama about corruption, lawlessness and gender politics in modern Indonesia. Mouly Surya’s film is a slow-burning pilgrimage, punctuated with sporadic violence and dark humour. Shot in four chapters (The Robbery, The Journey, The Confession, The Birth), it’s a visually eloquent and atmospheric drama which throws light on the dark patches of society. Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts is a heady journey into the heart of darkness.

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts screens at East End Film Festival on 12 April.