Shinya Tsukamoto burst onto the international film scene with Tetsuo the Iron Man (’89), his first feature film that greatly influenced many creators around the world. He followed up with Tokyo Fist (’95), Bullet Ballet (’98) and then, A Snake of June (’02). That film which depicted life in an urban community and the loneliness of its inhabitants was powerfully visualized in bluish black and white color. It was recognized at the Venice Int’l Film Festival with the prestigious Jury’s prize.
In this new film, while keeping the recognizable Tsukamoto style, he embarks on a new direction. From his early works on, the images of war and violence have been a running constant. This time through the iconic story of a mother and child, these images come to wield a frightening power.
The main character is a single mother who harms herself by cutting her body on a regular basis. Her name is Kotoko. She doesn’t do this to die but it is her way of confirming her body’s will to live. She is driven by two conflicting impulses…the body with a strong will to live and the mind trying to purge the body. However a new life, her new born baby, enters into her existence, a helpless life that can be lost if not properly cared for. Tending to something so fragile, she lovingly protects the new life from any possible harm. As she reads and hears the daily news of violence, her desire to love and protect her child becomes so intense that she begins to act abnormally.
Kotoko is filled with intense emotions that cannot be labeled simply as love, rage, fear, and doubt. As she is being driven by these emotions, she lives her life continually seeking relief from them. Yet she refuses to define these emotions through the filter of rationality. They are indefinable, invisible and something of an organic mass. These emotions are ultimately transformed into a strong desire to live.
There are poems in the film; Kotoko sings these poems and dances with them. The main character Kokoto is played by a singer songwriter, Cocco, whose song was used as the theme song for the movie Vital (’04). In this film, she gives an overwhelming reality to Kotoko’s character through her extraordinary performance and commanding presence. She not only acts but also is responsible for the production design and music. Her creative talent is well-matched with multi-talented Shinya Tuskamoto who assumes multiple roles in his films, such as producing, writing, shooting, performing, directing, etc. Their creator vs. creator relationship and collaboration has made this film into an example of great cinema.