Monday, January 24, 2005

Battle Royale: Sign Of The Times?

The Special Edition of Battle Royale will finally be released in the United States tomorrow, January 25th. If you have not seen it, and are not squeamish about film violence, and a true cineaste, do not miss this film.

I was able to see the film early on thanks to the wonders of bittorrent, and I will be definitely buying this film, so there's one sale not lost.

On to the film - the story is starkly unrealistic, yet deals with a variety of topical social issues the world over. A Japanese film, it is a cross between "The Lord Of The Flies" and "Kill Bill", in terms of stylized violence. I take that back - the violence is actually anything but stylized. Raw, unstinted bloodshed, not very different from a game of Halo 2, except that these are children, and the blood looks very real.

The film begins with images of a media frenzy over a victor in some sort of competition. The camera narrows into the face of a little girl, with signs of bloodlust on her innocent face. This sets the scene for an unusual film. The premise of the film is that the adults, and the government, have decided to address the problems of school violence and unruliness, apart from social unrest and unemployment with an act, Battle Royale, which mandates that a class of schoolchildren be randomly chosen and placed on a deserted island for a three day fragfest. The children must kill each other, armed with an initial weapon, and some supplies. Any one choosing to opt out is eliminated, literally.

The backstory details the relationships between a particular set of students, and their phys. ed. teacher, who was knifed by one of the students and is now the supervisor for the 'game'. Their innocence is rapidly stripped away, and they retreat to a primal survival conflict. This is no simulated reality show, though, and to lose your edge is to lose your life.

The film is shot in a skillful manner by the director Kinji Fukasaki, 70 year old gangster film-maker, and showcases some powerful, emotive acting. More than a film, it is a multi-layered post-colonial, post-modern fable, combining some primal archetypes that turn out to be surprisingly universal. From the original tale of the Fall in the Garden of Eden, drawing in the Conradian "Heart Of Darkness', it takes inspiration from the statist experiences of the Japanese in the 20th century, as well as their hierarchical history. It also whispers the question "How far will our society go before it recognizes the emptiness, the heart of darkness?" The psychosexual terrors within us are exposed, once the civility and social constructions are stripped away. It illustrates the relationship between these subconscious emotions and our conscious actions, providing an analysis of the deterioration of the individual when he/she is let loose from restraints.

Nobody'll rescue you. That’s just life

Note: The store does not have a listing for the DVD yet. It is available on - and on Netflix.

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Time traveler, world traveler, book reader