Sunday, October 30, 2011
Vengeance Is Mine
Later, I watched Vengeance is Mine, directed by Shohei Imamura in 1979. It's really good, and not at all what I was expecting. It's about a serial killer, and I assumed it would be like most of the serial killer movies I'm used to watching - quick paced, and a clearly defined set of feelings about the killer. This movie didn't really have either of these things, but I found myself really enjoying it even thought it was so completely different. Ha, that's probably why I liked it so much.
The plot, in very few words, revolves around Iwao Enokizu, a serial killer in Japan who commits many gross, violent murders. The police chase him all over the place, but he always manages to evade them. The movie is only violent or gross twice, knowing that most things are more powerful if left to the imagination. There are also some subplots about Enokizu's marriage and also the family whose inn he hides inn, but honestly, while they were interesting, they were no where near as interesting to me as how I felt about the main plot.
I think I'm just really fascinated by how the subject of a serial killer was handled. I'm used to either seeing films that focus on tracking and arresting said killer (so clearly identify his actions as horrible) or focus on glorifying some aspect of the crime (like by having one of those suave killers we enjoy watching) or often, it's a combination of both. Very rarely, if ever, have I seen a film that doesn't feel like it does either. Enokizu is still an interesting man, but the movie, to me, felt more concerned with the nature of evil than things like motivations or whatever normal movies are concerned with.
That's another thing that the movie is lacking. Usually films about killers always try to explain why they are killing, hint at their motivation. The killings are rarely just random acts of violence, you know? The killer is trying to make a statement, or had some sort of screwed up something that affected him. Here, there's no concern with why Enokizu is killing. He simply is. Other films try to explain away evil, give it a reason so it's more comforting to viewers. "This person is messed up because of this event," is much nicer to process, I think, than something like this film, where a person is simply messed up. That's much more unsettling, I feel, and I liked it. It was different and it really worked well for me.
The camera reflects the neutrality of the whole film. It's calm, controlled, without a lot of jump cuts or craziness. I feel like it was very observational, and it fit really well with the whole tone of the movie. I liked that we didn't get to see all of the murders, but that's because I strongly believe that imagination is way more powerful than anything else. It really helped to build that neutral, observational tone, too - since we didn't see any gore or violence, there wasn't anything too sensational or exciting to get you going. There was no reason for the killing, no excitement for the viewer in the killing, no excitement in the camera over it, either. Very cool, the way all of it works together.
Overall, I really liked this movie because it was really different and unlike anything that I have seen before. It's sort of long, but sometimes it's nice to get cozy with some blankets, your favorite fall drink, and curl up on a chilly day with a longer movie, you know?
Have any thoughts on Vengeance Is Mine? Share them in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Vengeance Is Mine
Buy it on Amazon