Alive by Ryuhei Kitamura-Movie Review

Alive Film Review

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Dir. Ryuhei Kitamura
Japan, 2002, 35mm 119 min.
Japanese with English subtitles

Ryuhei Kitamura's atmospheric follow-up to the award-winning Versus is a powerhouse fantasy film driven by existential angst. With an industrial oppressiveness that recalls Terry Gilliam's darker moments or the dystopian interior landscapes of Dark City or City of Lost Children (with a touch of Tarkovsky's Solaris), Tenshu Yashiro (Hideo Sakaki of Versus) is the stoic protagonist typical of Japanese genre films, condemned to die for avenging the rape of his girlfriend Misako.

Haunted by guilt over her subsequent suicide, Tenshu has little to live for, and accepts his fate with quiet resignation. But when the execution fails, he is offered a choice between life with an uncertain future or death. Somewhat instinctively, he chooses life.

Locked in a large sealed room with another inmate, Tenshu soon realizes that the two execution-survivors are part of a sinister behavioral experiment that crosses over into the supernatural. What follows is a hallucinatory battle of wills through which Tenshu is forced to face his own propensity for violence, and the special effects and fight choreography soon take on the surreal manga quality that betrays the film's textual source.

Based on the manga by Tsutomu Takahashi (who also created the popular Jirashin), Alive is a visual tour-de-force not subject to the budgetary limitations of Kitamura's previous films.

Kier-La Janisse