Let’s face it, schoolkids are a pain; William Golding got it right with Lord Of The Flies. Now BATTLE ROYALE, a new ultra- violent Japanese film, celebrates the slaughter of the innocents. Or does it? Words: Paul Dale
apart is at the dawn of a new
millennium. the economy
has gone sour and the country is in a state of chaos. ()nce privileged schoolchildren now attack their teachers. Youth has lost all respect for its elders. The government hits back with a new law: Battle Royale. livery year a secondary school class is kidnapped at random and deposited on a desert island to fight things out for themselves. It lasts three days. everyone gets a weapon and only one may survive. Sounds a bit ridiculous. manga meets Survivor on I'i‘ugg/e Ror'k'.’ But have no dotibt about it. Kinji liukasaku‘s bloodfest will be the biggest cult movie of the decade.
In an era that has seen the tragedies of Dunblane and Columbine. this was always bound to draw controversy as it already has in the director liukasaku‘s native Japan. Yet litikasaku doesn‘t quite see things like that. 'I don't understand what all the fuss is about.‘ he says. "l‘his is a fairytale. a fable. The politicians~ get very nervous. because they are afraid it‘s exposing the fact that they have been doing nothing.‘
l‘ukasaku‘s film is both a lot less fatuous and exploitative on closer inspection. Recently Japan‘s media has been gripped by a spate of juvenile delinquency. In May this year a seventeen—year-oId boy killed a housewife. A few days later. a boy the same age hijacked a bus and stabbed a woman to death. In August a fifteen-year-old boy massacred a whole family in his neighbourhood. And in December. a seventeen-year—old blew tip a video shop with a bomb. A mass youth psychosis was diagnosed. and naturally put down the national obsession with video games. Young people‘s inability to separate the real world was trumpeted by the country‘s press. But beneath Butt/e Rom/("s gleeful bodycount nihilism. liukasaku is making a genuine attempt to stake out the difference between real and imagined voileiice. ‘l’in not interested in "action entertainment" at all.‘ he says. ‘What I want to make is a film about what violence is.’
With 'Beat‘ lakeslii as Hull/v Rom/("s Master of (‘eremoiiies and a cast of pretty teen soap stars. liukasaku has given the film the kind of sly. ironic
24 THE LIS1’ 1”, Sup -'. (mt Q’fi'
‘I’m not interested in “action entertainment” -
I want to of the really boring is a film about what
Sly and ironic, Battle Royale is an intensely enjoyable exercise
spin that informed the also misunderstood Paul \"erhoeven science fiction actioner Stars/tip 'Ii'oupw‘s. Despite attempts by the Japanese government to ban the film. Burl/e Rom/e has been a huge box office hit in its native country. It’s an intensely enjoyable exercise in sadomasochism which. at its core. displays a iiiischevious nature which would appear to be aimed at baiting conservative elements of society. Ania/mg. when you consider that this is l‘ukasaku’s (ll\l film; he‘s a 70-year-old filinmaking veteran (though the film was adapted from Koushon Takami‘s novel by liukasaku‘s son. Kenta).
ls'nown by precious film buffs as the Japanese Sam l’eckinpah. l‘ukasawa is best but not very well known in the west for his (ills TV shows T/ll' (irr't'li .S'Ii'nir'. li/ut'k Liam]. a Star Wars rip off llt'sxvugr' From Space. and as the director
Japanese sections of the appalling WWZ pic 'Iiiru.’
" I Is Tom.’ Tend. This lack of
fame is ridiculous for a filmmaker who has been openly credited as a huge influence by both Quentin 'l'arantino and John Woo. It is his four films in the .lingi-naki tataki series (Fig/ii ll'i'i/mui Honour. l973—4) that won litikasaku the epithets. Based on the confessions of a jailed Hiroshima gang boss .‘ylino Kozo, these are brilliant iieo—realist reinterpretations of post-war Japan that reveal the hypocrisy and brutality at the heart of the Yakusa criminal codes.
Viewed in the light of liukasaku's impeccable status as a veteran. there can be no doubt that Butt/e Ruin/("s explosive interrogation of problems beseiiiiig the laiid of the Rising Sun is far from mere exploitation.
Battle Royale opens 28 Sep. See review, page 25.
R ugh cuts
Lights, camera, action . . . EVERYONE: AND l'HElR GRANDMOlHtR wants to throw a film festival. And why not? As anyone reading this column wrll no doubt agree. there's no better way to spend your time. McEwan's Lager are hosting the Scottish Peoples' Film Festival at the Glasgow Film Theatre 2030 October. Though the thinking behind this new festival is somewhat sycopfiaiitic it's for us. the public. the people that make the event possible you can't fault the programming. It promises film premieres. 0&As with visiting filmmakers. workshops. and a retrospective event. So far announced is a prevrew of Enigma (Thursday 27 September) plus a personal appearance by its leading man Dougray Scott (see feature. pages 22 23). Making its UK premiere. Brotherhood Of T he Wolf sounds like a riot. Inspired by events which took place during the reign of LOUIS XV. the stOry concerns the hunt for the Beast of Gevaudan. a fearsome creature which slew upwards of 100 peOple. It's billed as a historical horror mystery - with martial arts thrown in for good meaSure.
Brotherhood Of The Wolf
TEACHERS STUDY BATTLE ROYALE. It’s true, school teachers are going to watch and discuss the Japanese film that’s got reactionary types (not least the Japanese government) up in arms over its violent, some say amoral content. Of course bearing an ‘18’ certificate, the audience the film concerns (teenagers) won’t be able to see the film (at least not legally). So, all you filmgoing school kids out there, pester your teachers about the pros and cons of Battle Royale after they return from the adults only screening (at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Saturday 29 September