|Bataru rowaiaru - saturday 2007-03-24 2307||last modified 2007-03-26 1316|
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Better known (if known at all) in English circles as Battle Royale, the inferred background of this 2000 film is that Japan's become an authoritarian state in the worst way, exemplified by the passage of an act mandating that one middle school classroom must each year be transported to an island and fight to the death until only one or none remain, with conditions prejudiced such that the battle should end with precisely one of those results.
What would junior high, an already awkward land of a hundred daily social deaths, become when all those young, immature relationships and feelings explode into matters of actual life and death? With its predilection for hyper-violence, I felt sure I wasn't going to much enjoy Battle Royale, and if you're any more sensitive than me, its message is going to get lost in a continual stream of carnage.
From a web of schoolyard crushes transforming into the selfish affections of adolescence to the pecking orders attempted and destroyed by the unyielding power to kill to newfound relationships under the pressure of survival, Battle Royale pulls everything it can out of its surrealist conceit.
The film's thinly veiled message, disguised as children in the hands of mostly faceless adult authority ultimately triumphing when they redefine the battle, is intended to give hope to those who ask for and receive a faceless nanny state, replete with a justice system entirely capable of shuttering away opposition. Control systems that dictate behavior require the treatment of individuals as an aggregate mass, a catch in any system that will always result in anomalies. Whether the anomalies can subvert the system is the true question, and Battle Royale says yes: when they band together, there are opportunities for the game to change.
Of course, Japanese culture is also responsible for talking toilets and used underwear vending machines. Maybe the movie is nothing more than its surface.
Battle Royale is, as far as I understand, available legally only through Netflix in the United States.
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