Batoru rowaiaru (2000)
Japan / Japanese
"Could you kill your best friend? "In future Japan, the government capture a class of ninth-grade students and force them to kill each other under the revolutionary "Battle Royale" act.
A Haunting Film That Demands Repeated Viewing
The Place: Japan. The Time: The not-so-distant-future. Faced with the
prospect of losing control over the nation's young people, a
totalitarian government decides upon a ruthless demonstration of power.
The Battle Royale Act annually sends a randomly-selected class of high
school students to an uninhabited island where they are compelled to
kill each other until only one of their number survives.
The reasoning behind this bizarre piece of legislation is perhaps the
weakest part of the plot - but the Director deftly causes us to suspend
disbelief by drawing us surely and touchingly into the feelings of the
young cast. Unlike many western movies which trot out a body count of
simplistic characters who are only there to die horribly for our
entertainment, Battle Royale somehow manages to rapidly introduce us to
the story's potential victims and make us care about them.
You will read reviews that describe this film as excessively violent. I
believe that this is a gross overstatement. Though there are many
deaths and not a little blood, the main emphasis is upon simple human
values - issues such as trust, friendship, love and hate - which the
competition tests to their very limits. Children who have little
genuine experience of living are forced to evaluate their relationships
with each other if they want to stay alive. Alliances are formed and
broken; long suppressed crushes and barely buried antagonisms influence
There are no easy or mindless deaths in Battle Royale. The violent
scenes make the point that violence and death are not cool or funny.
This is not Kill Bill; every character in Battle Royale has value as a
living, breathing human being. It may sound corny to say that the movie
is an emotional roller-coaster ride, but it truly is - having dared to
give us three dimensional people who bleed when they are cut, the
Director sometimes further dares to cruelly follow scenes of tragedy
with jarring moments of biting, dark and sarcastic wit.
If this was an American movie, the class would be played by people in
their twenties and thirties. Two or three of the students would be
given a lot of screen time and the rest would be faceless cannon
fodder. Five seconds after the opening titles, you would know who was
going to survive. Despite its odd premise, Battle Royale seems closer
to reality because its teenagers really are teenagers and it allows no
comforting certainties about who lives or dies.
The true genius of Battle Royale lies in the talented playing of the
entire cast. Although young, not one of them strikes a dud note and the
script gives almost all of the students a chance to shine at some
point. The fight scenes are not staged in the style of 'Enter The
Dragon' - the kids are not weapons experts or Karate champions. We see
them kill each other but we are not invited to hate them - they are,
after all, children and they are scared and desperate. Even a student
who takes to killing with apparent relish deserves our sympathy.
Some reviewers have criticised aspects of the dialogue as unrealistic.
There are certainly times when the script seems stagy - but it is
important to remember that these Japanese children are products of a
national culture which often finds the expression of passionate
emotions problematical. If anything, the formal phrasing and
awkwardness of their most heartfelt expressions only serves to make
them more meaningful.
The Special Edition ends (quite literally) with a question. You will
find yourself going back to this movie time and time again to answer
it. Each viewing is rewarded with details that you probably missed
previously - the depth of characterisation and the layers of
hidden-in-plain-sight clues continually allow you to understand the
story from fresh perspectives.
|Nr of disks/tapes:||1|
|Storage device:||Divx 1|