Today: April 15, 2024

Villain DVD

By Shelley Marsden – Villain, based on the bestselling novel by Shuichi Yoshida, boasts accolades in its homeland as long as your arm (it won 15 Japanese Academy Awards).

By Shelley Marsden

Villain, based on the
bestselling novel by Shuichi Yoshida, boasts accolades in its homeland as long
as your arm (it won 15 Japanese Academy Awards).
Japanese director Lee Sang-il’s crime drama may not be what
you might class a ‘thriller’, but it is an intriguing, slow-burning drama with
some convincing performances.

The plot is this: a strangely
unpleasant female office worker is murdered and there are two prime suspects;
one a cool, middle-class lothario with little heart, the other an
introspective, working-class loner.

In
the opening scene, a young man with died blond hair is sitting in his car in a
petrol station. While construction worker Yuichi (Satoshi Tsumabuki) waits for the tank to fill up, he looks at a
video on his mobile of a pretty girl sprawled across a bed in her underwear. This
girl is Yoshino (Hikari Mitsushima),
an insurance company employee who lives in a dormitory. She really wants to
reel in hip playboy Masuo (Masaki Okada),
but plays with the feelings of shy, sad Yuichi seemingly to pass the time. When
this young woman is found dead – the audience is in doubt that it is one of her
paramours.

But really, the murder plot is
secondary; the core of Villain is Yuichi’s relationship with Mitsuyo (Eri Fukatsu), another cheerless
character who lives a lonely, isolated life and spends her days working in a
musty men’s clothing store – in the same town she has always lived in.
Desperate for human contact and some form of loving relationship, she meets
Yuichi online, and soon decides she’ll do anything to protect him.

Though we’re pretty sure who has
committed the murder, Sang-il does play with our heads where motive is
concerned, and as clues are uncovered and events unveiled, the murky air of
moral ambiguity pervades. Masuo goes on the run, is found in a ‘love hotel’ by
the police, and is then pursued by Yoshino’s heartbroken father who is furious
when he spots him laughing with friends in a bar. Whoever killed Yoshino, it
seems nobody’s hands are completely clean.

There is something inherently
Japanese about how emotionally restrained Villain’s characters are, the general
claustrophobia building as lines between good and bad are blurred and themes of
grief, loneliness and pure desperation follow them inescapably wherever they
go.

Japanese films tend to lend
themselves to bleakness and alienation and Villain, set in winter, is no
exception. Atmospherically pitch perfect, this is more about isolated
existences than murder and mayhem, so if you’re expecting a fast-paced
whodunit, you’re looking in the wrong place. As a delicate study of the purity and darkness within every
human heart, it’s quite a success.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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