WTF ASIA 172: Vengeance is Mine (1979)

From a movie about the search for a killer to a movie about a killer. Yes, I totally did this on purpose.

Vengeance Is Mine

Available in Canadathe United States, and perhaps a few other countries. Approximately 141 minutes.

 

It is the fourth of January, 1964. The long manhunt for Enokizu Iwao has finally ended with his arrest. As the caravan of police cars wind through the streets, Iwao asks one of the detectives how old he is. 55. Iwao reasons that, if he gets the death sentence in 3 years, he will be 40. No matter what, there is no way that he will ever reach the age that the detective is at now. And the detective will probably be able to get older and older. How is that fair that Iwao die so young? The other detective notes that Iwao’s claim of injustice is rather ironic, given that he had murdered five innocent people. Iwao ignores that statement, continuing on his complaining about how this older detective will be able to live his life for years and years, before eventually going on about how cold jail would be.

There is a media mob when they arrive at the police station. The detective allows Iwao to have his face covered, even though the entire nation knows what he looks like by now. It is extremely difficult for them to enter the building due to the crowd, which also includes at least one person trying to assault Iwao.

Erm…sudden flashback to… the 18th or 19th of October 1963. A woman is working on her field near a train station, only to find that yet another drunk Korean wandered in and fell asleep. How she knew the person was Korean, I have no idea. But when her friend goes to check, she finds that…oh no…the Korean is not asleep, he is dead. Also, he is Japanese. How did she know that he was Japanese and not…well, whatever. The point is that he is dead.

Looks like the stupid daughter-in-law will not be getting grated radish with fish, because this field will be overrun with cops, media, and onlookers. Oh, man. The dead guy, Shibata Tanejiro, was bashed in the head with a hammer and stabbed in the chest

Elsewhere, police find a truck where a Baba Daihachi was stabbed multiple times on the same day.

Oh, back to the police station. It is now the 9th of January. A detective is questioning Iwao about his activities on the 18th of October. Iwao is being…less than cooperative, but the detective notes that he had purchased a radio using cash that had previously belonged to Tanejiro and even had his blood on it. Jeez, that is actually quite a bit of blood. How did he explain that when trying to buy the radio? Iwao continues to be uncooperative. Though it is the job of the detectives to extract a confession from him, he claims that they already know what they need to know and should write it up as they see fit.

 

The Tale of Tanejiro and Daihachi

Iwao is bicycling through what I can only assume is the fictional (or subsequently renamed) city of Chikuhashi and parks it at a grave stone, almost knocking it over.

Iwao runs off and flags down a truck; yes that truck. Apparently, the passenger, Tanejiro, knows him from Saikai Transport. They must have driven together around four or five times. It is possible, but not confirmed, that Iwao knew that Tanejiro would be coming this way. Tanejiro introduces Iwao to the driver, Daihachi, calling him Daihachi the Rock, due to his incorruptible nature. Iwao jokes that that makes Tanejiro and Daihachi opposites. He also says that he is heading to a hog yard run by a friend behind the station. He invites them to take a drink break. Daihachi would never do such a thing, but Tanejiro…?

It is sometime later and Iwao is on a train that has topped at the station by the scene of Tanejiro’s murder. Police are everywhere outside, and the other passengers are crowding by the windows. So Iwao tries to hide his face in his newspaper.

Back to the tale of Tanejiro and Daihachi. Daihachi and Iwao are walking around the field. Tanejiro wonders if the persimmons are sweet. Perhaps he can take one To Daihachi as a peace offering after taking a drink break with the friend of a friend in the middle of a job. Whatever; it should be fine as long as he is back in half an hour.

Without warning, Iwao attacks Tanejiro with a hammer. Tanejiro is almost too surprised to register the pain as he fights back. But Iwao hits him again. And again. And again. Tanejiro continues to fight back even as he bleeds all over. Then Iwao stabs him twice. Tanejiro is not even dead yet when Iwao goes through his bag, takes his cash, and runs off.

Wow…so just like that.

 

Iwao runs through the field, stopping only after he gets a little tired. He notices all of the blood on his right hand, so he…uh…urinates the blood off. Then he takes a persimmon and tastes it. He spits it out, saying to himself that that would not make a present. Nevermind that he grabbed it with the hand that got blood and pee all over it.

Iwao goes back to the truck to see Daihachi sleeping. He taps on the window to wake Daihachi up and tells him that Tanejiro got redfaced from the drinking. They will probably need to wait another twenty or thirty minutes. Okay, twenty, since it is already 4:00. He says that he will go check up on Tanejiro but, instead, goes to a shop and buys a kitchen knife.

Iwao has Daihachi drive up to where he claims Tanejiro is, which is a bit of a ways away. Daihachi is getting irritated, as it is already 5:00. They get into a tunnel and Iwao tells Daihachi to stop the truck. Daihachi keeps driving, but no problem. Iwao admits that he killed Tanejiro, pulls out the kitchen knife, and stabs Daihachi while he is still driving. Daihachi crashes the truck while trying to fight back. He begs for his life as Iwao binds his hands together. He promises to not tell anyone. Iwao says that he will take him to the hospital and then drives…to some random spot on a hill. He pulls Daihachi out of the truck and then stabs him some more.

Some time later, Iwao manages to change out of his bloody work clothes and into a suit. He walks down the hill and back into the city. He goes into a store and buys a radio. He also tries to call someone, but she is apparently not there. He goes to…I guess his apartment, takes out the wads of stolen cash, and turns on the radio. It sounds like someone in a nearby city had found the badly decayed body of a woman in a cement yard yesterday afternoon. Eh, he didn’t do that, so he doesn’t care. So he turns off the radio. He looks over the bills and finally notices that there is blood all over them.

Suddenly, he jolts up. The money he used to purchase the radio had blood on it! Or maybe it was something else. In any case we are back in the interrogation room, and Iwao has had it. He knocks of the table and screams that will not provide any statement. As the detectives silently try to set the table back properly, Iwao exclaims that they should have some respect for another man’s life, and then immediately knocks over a stool.

One of the detectives says that this should not be so difficult: they just want him to tell them how he killed Tanejiro, and where he got the knife. At this, Iwao grins and proudly tells them (after telling them to make sure that they write this down properly) that Hata Chiyoko gave him the knife, and told him to stab him with it. Stab…Tanejiro? Well, the detective points out that Chiyoko said something different, and Iwao asks whether they verified her story.

The detectives take out their record, where it says that Chiyoko had the knife to stab him if she had to. Him who? The man whom she wanted to break up with. The man being Iwao himself. Flashback to a time when Iwao practically forces himself on her in his apartment and she takes out the knife. When she asks him what would he do if she refuses to go away with him, he says offhand that he would kill her. Then she brandishes the knife, and he backs into a corner.

Chiyoko recounts to the detectives that she was going to stab him in his nuts, when he basically cowered in the corner, saying that she could leave, which she did. But she also left the knife there. The next night, the night he called her, asking for her to go to Osaka with him. Of course, she turned him down. The detectives ask why. Because she is married, of course. Oh. Plus, she could guess how things would end up had she gone with him. All in all, none of them seem to be all that concerned at how close she had come to getting murdered.

It is probably through Chiyoko that Iwao’s face gets plastered on the front page of newspapers, which he notices one day. Truck Driver Sought in Murder Case.

Iwao takes a boat to Osaka. At night, he notices how dark the water is, saying seemingly to other passengers that no one would ever find a jumper. He then…um…disappears. And the crew find, among his things what looks like a suicide letter to his parents, his wife, and his two daughters. 

Cut to the detectives on a train, talking to a woman named Sachiko, who lived with him in Chikuhashi between January and August of 1963. She had been under the impression that he worked at a PR firm, and would stop by her restaurant during his work trips. Hmmm…maybe Chikuhashi is the fictional version of Yukuhashi? Anyways, she admits that she had known that he was married, but he told her that it was a marriage of convenience, done for religious purposes. She claims that he was good to her, if quite handsy. And I guess that she got nervous in regards to being able to take care of her own child. So, she tried to break it off with him, but now she wonders if she failed him. What, as if she was the reason for his murdering people?

Well, that is it. As the train pulls into the Matsue station, the detectives leave, though not before handing Sachiko a postcard addressed to her from the Uko ferry. She reads it and then runs after the detectives, angry that they did not immediately show her what looks like a suicide note. They tell her that it is probably bogus, but she is still angry at them.

It is now that we finally meet the family. A trio of detectives arrive at the Goto Inn in Beppu to speak with Iwao’s father, mother, and wife. His father, Shizou, tells the detectives that Iwao had been trouble since he was little, but that he had never thought that he would murder anyone. He promises to help the detectives however he can. Iwao’s mother, Kayo, starts to sob, crying out how could this happen. How could such a gentle child do this? She breaks down, and Iwao’s wife, Kazuko, takes her to another room as she exclaims that an evil spirit lives in this house.  

A couple of civilians arrive to check in and Shizou puts on a smile to greet them before going back to the detectives. He apologizes for the interruption, but they apologize for intruding in the first place. One of them asks about his wife’s health, and he says that she has had a weak heart even back when they lived in the Goto Islands west of Nagasaki.

 

The Tale of Young Iwao

It is the Summer of 1938 and Japan is at war with China. The Catholic residents of the island stand outside of their seaside church and watch as a military man assaults Shizou for standing up to him. The man claims that the Christians are the only ones who have refused to provide boats for the war effort. Shizou says that he did not mean to disobey, but claims that only the Catholics had to give up all of their boats. That gets him a slap.

Young Iwao, who had been standing with the rest of the group, suddenly breaks off running. His older sister calls out to him, but it is too late. He gets a big wooden rod and hits the military man in the back of the leg, knocking him to the ground. He is about to hit the man again, when Shizou stops him, hits him, and subdues him. Shizou tries to apologize on Iwao’s behalf, but Iwao continues to thrash around and throws sand at the military man.

Well, regardless of what Shizou was planning to do beforehand, now he has to give the boats to the military. The military man demands that Shizou declare that he offers his boats for the sake of the Emperor with great pleasure. He says the phrase as Iwao storms off in futile defiance.

Iwao is sitting by the beach alone when his mother calls him for dinner. He tells her that his father is a weakling for getting beat, letting them have the boats, and apologizing. Kayo says that he is just a boy, and that he does not understand how things are. But Iwao insists that he knows what he saw.

Well, it turns out that the military did not simply take the boats. They did give the family some money in return, which Shizou used to purchase the inn in Beppu. Shizou tells the detectives that Iwao just became even more rebellious, and spent the entirety of the war in a reformatory. I can only imagine what he would have been like as a soldier.

 

Sudden time-skip to the Autumn of 1946, and Iwao is with a bunch of American soldiers, drunkenly driving a pair of military jeeps through a rice field and terrorizing the locals. They get out of the jeeps and circle around one young woman in particular. It is…unclear whether Iwao saves her from getting raped by the Americans or if he is simply pretending to be kind to her before raping her, but the sequence stops before it is made clear.

Iwao would spend two years in prison for stealing an American jeep. Whether it was one of these jeeps or another jeep, it is difficult to say. But any case, it appears that the crime was the theft of a jeep, not for all of the other things that he did, let alone what the Americans did. In any case, Shizou and Kayo decided that marriage would calm him down. So, they arranged for him to marry a good Catholic girl.

A young woman arrives in Beppu. She goes to the inn and asks for Iwao. Kayo greets her and asks who she is. She is Omura Kazuko from Fukuoka. Kayo tells her that Iwao is getting his hair cut in preparation to meet his prospective bride today, but she offers to pass along a message. Kazuko declines and leaves.

Wait a minute…is Kazuko the woman from the rice field?

 

Well, anyways, Kazuko passes the barbershop and glares at Iwao without stopping. Iwao runs after her. He tries to act all friendly with her, but she expresses displeasure at the news of his upcoming marriage. Iwao laughs off this whole thing, saying that his father insisted that he meet this ugly woman from Goto. There is no way that he is marrying her. With that, Kazuko starts to walk back to the inn. She tells Iwao that she wants to meet his parents. He tells her to come another day, but she continues.

The parents are, understandably, not happy to see Kazuko on this of all days. Shizou yells at Iwao for bringing her here on this of all days, even though this was not his fault. Or…perhaps it is his fault. Anyways, he wants to marry Kazuko, not that woman from Goto. His parents disapprove because she is Buddhist, but Iwao says that she can get baptized tomorrow. This only makes Shizou angrier at Iwao for his cavalier attitude towards religion. And that is when Kazuko reveals that she is three months’ pregnant with Iwao’s child. And this changes everything. Iwao laughs at his father’s predicament. Well, they certainly cannot see that other woman now.

A pair of detectives spy on Kazuko for a while, wondering whether she is in contact with Iwao. They follow her from a pier to a hot spring, where she sells eggs to visitors. One of the detectives asks her why she goes to the pier every morning. She tells them that she does not really know. He asks her if she thinks Iwao will kill himself. Who knows. She says that it would make their jobs easier if he did. Or would it? Do they need to take him alive? The other detective tries to redirect the conversation to how she is faring. She says that every day is hell. He asks when she became Catholic, and she says that it happened after she got married. He mentions finding out that she had left Iwao once and then married him again. She tells him that she had found out that he had been lying to her all along. Lying about…well, anyways, she tells them that Jesus said that giving up hope is the worst sin. So she decided to face their difficulties head on. She also says that she has tremendous respect for her father-in-law.

 

The Tale of Kazuko and Shizuo

It is the Spring of 1959 and Iwao has been serving a 30-month sentence for fraud. Meanwhile Kazuko is working in an inn by some hot springs in the island of Shikoku. Shizuo stops by and begs her to return. He claims that he shares in the sins that Iwao had committed, promising to not let Iwao do it again. He also says that Kayo misses her granddaughters.

As if on cue, here come little Aiko and Hiroko running to grandpa. He gives them a hug and breaks down crying. It is such a shame that they are out here in the backwoods. Shizuo enlists the girls to beg Kazuko to return to Beppu. Kazuko tells him that it took a long time for her to decide to leave in the first place; she cannot just go back immediately. Still holding on to his granddaughters, Shizuo tells her that God disapproves of divorce.

It is night time and Shizuo is bathing in one of the hot springs. Kazuko arrives and Shizuo looks at her, wondering whether she has come to provide some items from the inn to help with the nope, she is taking off her clothes and entering the pool with him. He turns away for the sake of propriety, but it eventually becomes clear why she is here. She tells him that she has thought it over and will indeed return to Beppu. Shizuo is relieved. She is not going back for Iwao, though. Nor for Kayo, nor for God. Nope, she says that she is going back for Shizuo. Shizuo is not sure how to take this news. He tries to act like he did not hear her, but it is obvious that he did. And as it starts raining, she becomes more overt with her seduction. He starts to give in as well, but then they suddenly both break away, as if it never happened. Guilt? Embarrassment? Shame? Fear? Shizuo tells her to go back inside before she gets a cold, and she complies. And Shizuo submerges himself? A second baptism? An attempt to drown himself?

Two weeks later, the two of them visit Iwao. Shizuo tells him that he had convinced Kazuko to come back and they will be putting her back on the registry as Iwao’s wife. Iwao will receive the forms soon and will need to put his seal on them. Iwao accuses his father of intruding in matters, but Shizuo says that this is what God wants. Iwao asks about Kayo, and Shizuo says that she is not faring well. He tells Iwao to stay out of trouble, as to not give his mother any more grief.

Well…that…certainly does not happen.

 

This movie is based on the book of the same name by Ryūzō Saki. And that novel was based on the true story of Nishiguchi Akira. I am not sure exactly how accurate the movie is, but I know that it was not too concerned with accuracy.

This movie was directed by Imamura Shōhei, one of the big names of the Japanese New Wave, which was prominent between the late 1950s and the mid-1970s. So, this may have been one of the last hurrahs of the movement. My own experience with Japanese New Wave films has been…erm…a mixed bag. A lot of them are deliberately messy and esoteric, with their radical rebellion against Japanese society taking the anti-hero archetype to an uncomfortable extreme and complicating whatever their arguments may be. Often the protagonists are social misfits with a propensity for violence. They can be rapists and murderers. But, somehow, it is society that is to blame. Bunch of Clockwork Oranges. Yeah, definitely not a well that I can go to repeatedly, and there are much more misses than hits for me. But this one worked for me. Perhaps it is because it is less weird than the others, but that is a bit misleading.

I guess that this film is slightly less surreal and absurdist than other Japanese New Wave films than I have seen. Stylistically, it is kind of more conventional. The world is presented more conventionally. Still, the characters whom we stay with for a while eventually reveal their…strangeness. It is difficult to say whether these principle folks are supposed to be indicative of the rest of society, something that I have an issue with when it comes to the polemics in Japanese New Wave films. But, I guess that they are able to survive in Japanese society with little problem…at least until Iwao shows up.

Being based (if only loosely) on a true story, it is not much of a spoiler to put the killer’s arrest in the introduction. Actually, we do not even see the arrest, just him in the car having been arrested. There is an inevitability to his getting caught. In fact, there is a sense of inevitability to practically everything in this movie. There is a sense of asking “how did we get here and where do we go from here” in the way that the movie bounces back and forth between events. Yet, the movie seems to evade explanation or rationalization. Just as Iwao seems to disappear in the crowd of cops, reporters, and onlookers as he makes his way to the police station, there is nothing that can be pointed out. We know who. We know what. And we sometimes know how. But why? So many stories about serial killers are obsessed with finding out a reason why they kill. This movie may occasionally come close to finding reasons, only to pivot away. That is the most complicated question, an easy answer would be insincere.

Since Imamura has this psychotic killer be his protagonist, does that mean that his sympathies lie with the killer? Maybe. Maybe not. Who cares? Screw your sympathies.

The earliest scene chronologically is in 1938, and Iwao is violent even then. But…Japan was about a year into war with China, a war that Japan had started and had been trying to start for years. Iwao is acting with violence against violent injustice to his family and his people. And how does he get thanked for sticking up for his father? His father hits him and gives in to the power and making a statement that he obviously does not believe. Lies, violence, oppression. But, somehow, Iwao is in the wrong?

Society

 

Sidenote: there is a character in the way back flashbacks whom I am assuming is Iwao’s older sister, but no one talks to her or talks about her. Nor do the detectives talk to her. Incidentally, someone on the film team learned that Nishiguchi Akira worked in a restaurant or something near where they were filming, so they frequented that place a lot for a period of time. Did they learn anything from her? Did they bother her? I have no idea. As for in the film itself? Perhaps she is working at the inn. Perhaps she got married and moved out. Perhaps she is dead. I have no idea either. In any case, she gets about as much screen time as Iwao’s daughters do: practically none.

Iwao was still a teenager when WWII was going on, but he probably would have been used to help the war effort or even conscripted towards the end. He may have fit in with the cruel violence of it all, but no way would he have obeyed his superior officers. So, it is probably just as well that he got stuck in a reformatory for the duration. But, if anything, he emerged worse, with sexual aggression taking a place next to his violent destructive tendencies. 

A Devil’s Advocate might argue that it is not outright confirmed that he is a rapist, but he comes close enough that…yeah. Like with a lot of Japanese New Wave films, this movie’s approach to sex is unsettlingly ambiguous enough that it is difficult to say what we are supposed to feel except for uncomfortable. Iwao is shown to have some intense sexual appetites. If the women consent, great. If not…eh…but he is hardly the only one. Not long after the end of my synopsis, someone assaults Kazuko and she fights him off until he asserts that Shizuo gave his consent. Does she stop resisting because she realizes that she will get no support from anyone or because she will do anything for her father-in-law? In a movie like this, it is difficult to tell. There is a sequence later on that is far less ambiguous in regards to what is going on, though. And what about Kazuko’s relationship with Shizuo. Yes, he is older than her and has more power in the relationship, but is she not exercising her own sexual power over him in a sense? He had approached her prostrating in front of her earlier and then she approaches him when he is in a position of vulnerability. The father sleeping with his daughter-in-law would be transgressive enough without this little flip.

There is quite a bit of sex in this film and, some of it is disturbing while some is kind of…erotic. But some of it is just matter of fact. People have urges and will pay to have them satisfied. There is a sex worker who has a small, but pivotal role in the film. Spoiler alert, no the movie does not kill her off. She occasionally goes to an inn to attend to clients. And, it is treated like just another service. One that requires some discretion outside of the inn, but within the inn, it is fine. Of course, the inn has its own quirks, but it works for Iwao and those who frequent it. The sex workers appear to treat the job as a job, not necessarily a lifestyle or a prison, just work. Japan has historically had a…complex…attitude towards sex work, but it had technically remained legal until 1956, seven years before the main events of this movie. One could probably thank the influence of the American Occupation for that. So, there is less cultural shame towards being a sex worker, but one now has to be careful around the police. Is the movie’s depiction of sex work in the 1960s realistic? I don’t know.

Neither do I know about the movie’s take towards marriage. Pretty much every stated marriage in this movie has been sullied. Iwao was going to be forced into marriage with the hopes of holding him down, only for him to blow it up with pre-marital sex with Kazuko. His marriage to Kazuko could maaaaybe have been one of love, but it was not to last. Shizuo cheats on his wife, in spirit if not in deed. Kazuko probably cheats on Iwao. Iwao definitely cheats on her, with at least one married woman. There is a man later on who frequently has sex with a woman, only to suddenly marry another woman. There are maybe public displays of respect for the institution of marriage, but it does not appear that anyone takes it seriously under the surface.

 

Hmm…am I forgetting something? Oh, right. Murder.

 


We do not see all of the murders. And the ones that we do see are rather sudden, with little to no build-up and without the menacing music that can be heard in other parts of the movie. The kills are messy, clumsy, almost impulsive. Iwao does not really set anything up or plan things out. There is no ritual. He just attacks the person until the person dies, and it is a struggle if that person fights back.

So, why does Iwao kill people? There does not appear to be an inciting incident or anything. There is one time where we might see where he decides to kill, but the motive and catalyst are difficult to pin down. We do not see any sudden switch inside of him. He starts out as a violent person and that violence eventually turns to murder. And…that is it. Why does he kill these particular people? The movie presents possible explanations without committing to any of them. Is it just for the relatively paltry sums of money that he steals from them? But some people he steals from without killing them. Is it because certain people remind him of people whom he feels have done him wrong? Eh…that is tenuous. It is certainly not because they themselves did him wrong. Is it all symbolic for society? Ugh. Maaaybe. If so, though, why them specifically? Only one of the people whom he kills could be considered a person with any modicum of power or influence. And while none of them are necessarily angels, only one of them could be considered anywhere close to being a bad person. And certainly, that person did not have it coming more than certain other people whom Iwao did not kill. Japanese New Wave fans can and have certainly tried to unwind the twisted logic behind these kills, but it is a stretch. This is not Joker or Parasite. Certainly not Dexter. You really really really got to put in the mental work to justify this psychopath’s behavior. Still, many have put in that effort. Because they are super smart or whatever, and totally not sociopaths.

What sets Iwao apart from the rest of this nonsensical society? Is it the senseless brutality of his murders? Maybe. Yet, he is hardly the only killer around. When he turns on the radio, perhaps hoping to find out if the police have learned anything about his crimes, he hears about the discovery of a decomposing body the day before in a nearby city. It is revealed that two characters got their hands bloody to an extent before Iwao’s murder spree. It is even revealed that another character had been imprisoned for murder. Plus, the whole war stuff in the backstory. There are cemeteries seemingly all over the place, almost as if the living walk among the dead, without giving them much thought. How many of those people have been murdered?

Japanese New Wave may often concern itself with social outcasts, but Iwao is not really one of those. Sure, he may have been as a child, growing up as a religious minority on an island that was far enough from the heart of Japan to be considered nowhere, but still close enough to be regularly harassed. Yet, his family was at least somewhat well-off, and innkeeping is not such a shameful livelihood. What set him apart was his disobedience. No, what sets him apart is his ability to not set himself apart. Like Frank Abagnale Jr. Iwao can create an identity for himself, worm his way into people’s lives, rip them off, and disappear. Unlike Abagnale, some of those people end up dead.

Iwao takes boats to travel from place to place, a sign of the boats that his father had to give up. Then, on the mainland, he travels by train all around the West, gradually making his way to the heart of Tokyo itself. Now, sure, the police find more and more information about him. Sure, the media plaster his face all over. Yet, so often, he is able to pass through society without people noticing. Do they not take notice of his face? Are they not getting a good look at all of those pictures of his face all over the place? Do…they…not…care…? Sure, the detectives want to find him, but they are just doing their job. They do not seem to take an interest in pursuing justice. And the people whom they talk to do not seem to be particularly concerned with how close they had come to being murdered now that they are probably safe. Only one person turns out to really make the connection between the real person and the face in the picture. And this person is…well, not necessarily considered a person worthy of status or legal respect. People may say that they care, but they are just putting up a front for the sake of propriety. If such fakery is necessary to keep civilization together and functioning, then perhaps it should be demolished, theft by theft, murder by murder. At least Iwao is openly fraudulent.

Society

 


The movie begins with the perpetrator captured. The perpetrator of five heinous murderers. Yet, what may be a point of relief in other movies is hardly one here. The movie does not bother teasing out who did it. Nor does the movie tease out how the murders happened. No, the big mystery is why the murders happened. And there is no big reveal; just a bunch of possible clues that tantalize without actually leading anywhere. I think that that is what keeps me watching; the push and pull that seems to promise answers, but gives only more questions. No insight. Our understanding of him remains as obscured as that first image of him in the car.

There is a bit of a seductive charm beneath the cruel hatred, yet all that leads to is more cruel hatred, contempt for even trying to understand. There is nothing there that can explain what he did, rationalize what he did, excuse what he did, justify what he did. One can perhaps dismiss him as just a psychopath, different from the rest of us; screw this enigma nonsense. Yet, for the people against whom he holds resentment, they will have to live with the nagging possibility that they caused this…or failed to stop it. That is the vengeance in the title. He does not kill them; he forces them to live with his specter, along with the shadow of uncertainty, refusing to go away, haunting them forever.

 

WTF ASIA 173: Kung Fu Angels (Hong Kong: 2014, approx. 87 minutes)

Wikipedia

Available in AustraliaCanadathe United Kingdomthe United States, and perhaps a few other countries.

WTF ASIA 174: Treeless Mountain (South Korea: 2008, approx. 90 minutes)

Wikipedia

Available in Canada, France, the United States, and perhaps a few other countries.