Sunday, October 26, 2008

Movie Review: Bashing (2005)

Bashing (2005)

Director: Masahiro Kobayashi
Cast: Fusako Urabe, Nene Otsuka, Ryuzo Tanaka

An aptly titled film, that is for sure.

I humor myself, for what is a heavy, grim film, that leaves your stomach in knots. Almost never has the sound of the phone ringing been so agonizing or the whisper of the cold, ocean air so foreboding.

Masahiro Kobayasji's film based on actual events deals with Yuko (Fusako Urabe) a foreign aid worker who is held hostage in Iraq. Upon returning home to Japan she falls into an ostracized position as her friends, her community, her country view her actions as an aid worker, and position as a hostage, shameful and dishonorable. She is put into a media spot light (which is not focused on in the film) harassed daily and loses her job; the repercussions of all this extending the burden to her working class father and step mother (Ryuzo Tanaka, Nene Otsuka).

If one isn't familiar with Japanese culture the national attitude can seem so bizarre and frustrating. And when one thinks about that and views the positive reception the film received overseas compared to the negative or rather non existent one it received in Japan, well... one is not surprised and I would assume Kobayashi made this for his nation, wanting them to see their prejudice, but knowing full well they would reject it.
It is the power of cinema, the gift of cinema to both criticize and love the country that the film and filmmaker originate from.

Bashing is also a film which presents the Japanese psyche in a fairly accessible palette to Western culture. The reservations, customs, emotional and psychological compartmentalizing of the Japanese based around their rich history (from centuries of self enforced isolation to postwar) is all here in some way, but make no mistake this is a human story, and the film never uses the characters for some grander social or political statement. This is thanks in large part to Urabe's performance which is so earnest, seemingly one note - dejected, depressed... cold. But she is not. Her fear as she states to her stepmother is becoming cold, shut off, like everyone around her. An infinitely universal feeling and one that Kobayashi, as writer and director, quietly sympathizes with and champions.

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