Shinizokonai no Ao (2008)

Discussion in 'Asian General Cinema' started by pdn, Jan 7, 2010.

  1. pdn Guest

    Shinizokonai no Ao (2008)

    This film concerns a boy, Masao, who is beginning a new term at school (6th grade).
    The class has a new teacher, Haeda, who at first seems quite cool. However, after
    Masao tells him a small lie that backfires, Haneda's attitude towards Masao
    changes. Haneda starts singling Masao out for criticism at every opportunity.
    Soon the kids in the class begin to follow their teacher's lead and Masao, a rather
    shy and introverted kid to begin with, becomes the victim of their bullying.
    As he becomes increasingly ostracized by his classmates and picked on by Haneda,
    Masao begins having visions of a strange looking woman. Clad in a straight-jacket,
    missing an eye, with a mouth that's half stitched shut and a body that's covered all
    over with scars, this woman can only be seen by Masao.
    Pushed to the brink after a particularly hurtful encounter with Haneda, Masao
    actually contemplates suicide at a local bridge when the woman appears and,
    after Masao pulls the stitches from her mouth, convinces him to fight back, with
    her help, against his oppressors. Masao is reluctant but after another encounter
    with some bullies the woman, whose name is Ao, takes revenge. As Ao tries to
    push him further in his revenge Masao must decide whether to follow his urge
    to lash out or do what he thinks is right.

    This is a surprisingly good, if much flawed, little film that doesn't seem to have
    gotten much attention. Although superficially a horror film, there aren't much
    in the way of scares.
    The slow build first half instead focuses on the treatment of Masao by Haneda,
    who uses Masao as a patsy for his own inadequacies, constantly chipping away
    at his already fragile confidence and even finding fault in his successes. And
    the treatment of Masao by his classmates, who are only too happy to have been
    given licence by a supposed boundary setting adult to make Masao the butt of
    their frustrations (though obviously they are less to blame than Haneda).
    Unfortunately the film becomes a bit far fetched at times during the latter half
    of the film as Ao encourages Masao to take revenge on Haneda and Haeda's own
    behavior towards Masao becomes increasingly extreme - too extreme even for
    the end explanation to justify.
    It's made pretty clear during the film that Ao is Masao's 'monster from the id' -
    represented nicely by her deliberately cartoonish make-up (like something a child
    would come up with), the straightjacket (which binds Masao's aggression) and the
    stitching in her mouth (which stops Masao's primal side speaking out). Even the
    spelling of her name (Ao , as masAO) adds to this. Her appearance also improves
    as Masao starts fighting back - though the point is clearly not that he should fight
    back, just that he needs to learn to control, rather than repress or over express,
    this part of himself.

    The performances by all involved are excellent and it's nice to see a J-horror film
    that isn't populated by idols and pop singers.
    Director Masaki Adachi has plenty of previous form in the J-horror area, having
    worked as an assistant director on Dark Water and both of the theatrical Ju-ons,
    written the scripts for Exte and Rinne and directed one of the segments of Zoo.
    This film is also based on a novel by Goth author Otsuichi.

    As the story of a boy coming to terms with his own emotions and growing as a
    person told through the vehicle of a horror film, this works very well. Just don't
    expect many scares.


Share This Page