Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Actor: Takeshi Kitano
are not many films nowadays that can provoke much reaction
from a jaded audience, hardened by sensory overload exposure.
It seems nowadays that the only emotion that's ever excercised
these days is boredom, or contempt.
this is one of the reasons why I think Battle Royale is an
amazing film. I felt a range of emotions which probably shouldn't
be mixed together, like the ingredients that make up TNT.
Based on a manga which itself was based upon a book, this
film is set in the near future, where society is on the brink
of collapse due to economic disaster. This dystopia is covered
by a thin veneer of civility, stretched to near-invisibility
by the resultant pressures and. The rate of juvenile delinquency
rises as the families break down. In a desperate knee-jerk
reaction, the government passed the "Battle Royale"
Act, where each year, a class of these little shits are kidnapped
and transported to a deserted island, and forced to kill each
other with whatever means possible. The lone survivor will
be allowed safe passage off the island and supposedly back
into a 'normal' life.
film is shocking. It is not so much the violence - although
there is plenty of that, depicted in all its blood-spurting,
screaming entirety - but the way it mind-screws with you.
And don't think it's in the same mould as the teen slasher
movies either - the characters and emotions depicted here
makes it difficult for a person to easily dismiss the film,
and therefore you're left with no mental insulation or protection
from what's been splattered across the screen. The actors
here genuinely look like 13 or 15 year olds, conveying with
such horrible ease that quality of innocence and naivety,
necessary to make this film work. You are constantly being
disarmed every time you try to deal with and shield yourself
from the implications of the ideas in this film. Yet it is
also a comedy, very black to be sure - coming from the cheesiness
and banality of some of the scenes. For example, a tender
moment between a boy a girl gets mowed down in a hail of bullets
by a psychotic student. A group of close friends set up domestic
bliss together, joking and carrying on like normal teenagers
- before it all drowns in a bloody Pulp Fiction-like showdown.
You've got to laugh, but obviously you feel uncomfortable
for doing so. This alternation between black comedy and uber-violence
twists you like a broken back. The director knows his craft
well like a torturer knows his instruments.
I think there's more to this film than it being just a more
deadly version of a South Park cartoon. Beneath all the violence
depicted, there are moments when some normal human behaviour
is depicted, their presence giving more weight to the impact
of this film. There are also some Lord of the Flies elements
here, where long-held tensions between various cliques finally
found themselves freedom of expression by way of a crossbow
or a semi-automatic machine gun. Most of the kids aren't killers,
but when push comes to shove, they can do it and do it with
alarming ease and naturalism. When one of them asks the teacher
why they were forced to do this, the adults curtly tells them
that they had no one to blame but themselves. The film could
be an extreme realisation of some of adult's darkest fantasies,
coming from a fear and resentment of teenagers. How many times
have you heard an adult wishing that the skateboarding teenager
who nearly ran him down on the sidewalk would get some kind
of appropriately dire and preferably disfiguring punishment?
I have friends who, on hearing about this film, thought it
was absolutely deplorable. Yet some of these are the same
people who rated Requiem for a Dream highly, because it had
the effect of a mental punch to the solar plexus. It is for
the same reason why I rate this film highly - it shakes you
out of your stupor and complacency, especially about violence.
I doubt western studios would tackle something like this though
- at least not by using such young protagonists. It would
surely re-ignite the impossible debate about violence and
film. If I can risk being pretencious here, art is all about
provoking a reaction, to make you think and or feel in ways
you rarely have before. However, having said that, I would
not be in any hurry to watch a film like this again. Frankly
I need to sleep at nights.