Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Battle Royale

The only things I know about Japan are sushis, sake, Miss Kitty and what Bridget Jones’ mother tells her about Mark Darcy’s ex-wife: “His wife was Japanese. Very cruel race”. I cannot judge on this, but it is true that Battle Royale is not exactly a feel-good, nice and sweet movie. Released in 2000, it was directed by Kinji Fukasaku, who is, as I heard, one of Tarantino’s inspirations: indeed, one of the actresses plays in Kill Bill – Volume 1. Battle Royale is his favourite movie, to the point he even said “If there’s any movie that’s been made since I’ve been making movies that I wish I had made, it’s that one”.

It starts with the following opening:
At the dawn of the millennium, the nation collapsed. At fifteen percent unemployment, ten million were out of work. 800,000 students boycotted school. The adults lost confidence and, fearing the youth, eventually passed the Millennium Educational Reform Act, AKA the BR Act....
So…. Battle Royale Act explained: a class is kidnapped and sent on a remote island. Rule of the game:
Today's lesson is, you kill each other off till there's only one left.
No escape possible as each student has an electronic device around the neck, set to explode if he or she does not want to play the game, or if there is more than one person left at the end of the game. 

It is gripping, very violent, but somehow I was hooked from the start, dying (ha ha) to know what would happen: because, of course, the twist is that you will find some love stories / triangles in there. The beginning is almost funny: the teacher explaining the rules of the games and killing a couple of students for good measure, the video explaining the rules of the games that is presented by a cheerful girl, dressed in bright colours and just saying, basically “have fun!” is a sharp contrast with the reality of what is really happening:
Kyouichi Motobuchi: If I survive, can I go home?
Teacher Kitano: Yes, but only if everyone else is dead.
So basically for about two hours we watch people fighting while, in sharp contrast, music by Bach, Verdi, Schubert and Strauss is playing in the background… To some extent this film reminded me of two books: The Long Walk, by Stephen King, where 100 guys are selected to participate in The Long Walk and maintain a constant speed of no less than four miles an hour or risk being shot by soldiers monitoring the event. Up until there is one winner. The second one is Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, where schoolboys stuck on a deserted island try and govern themselves, without success, and fall into savagery.

Loved it, loved it, loved it. And to conclude:
Life is a game. So fight for survival and see if you're worth it.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, these reviews are coming along very nicely! Not sure this particular movie is one for me, but there are lots of great Japanese movies out there worth catching which don't include any slash-fest. Highly recommend checking out some of Miyazaki's work for a start... Mononoke, Nausicaa and Totoro are some of the best in ANY genre.