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Battle Royale

Today I'm going to review a film that (in the least soppiest way possible) has permanently and profoundly moved me in so many ways, although, admittedly, the book contributed just as much. It's called Battle Royale.

In an alternate reality, modern day Japan has collapsed, the job market is desperate and disillusioned youths rebel against their elders. In an attempt to get their citizens to conform, the government issue a drastic solution. Every year, they select a random class of 15 year olds, send them to an island, give them basic supplies and a random weapon (ranging from a pot lid to a machine gun) and tell them to kill one another until only one of them is left alive... sound familiar? It probably will, but don't even get me started on that just remember that both the book and film of this came first

The characters. Every last, single character felt so fleshed out, authentic, and so incredibly real. The vast majority are deeply tragic, and having left secondary school not so long ago, these characters represented the vast majority of people frighteningly well, and considering Japan and England are very different places, I guess that just emphasises the ability of the writer, Kenta Fukasaku, in creating youths who we can all identify and empathise with (although on the other hand, teenagers probably encounter similar problems regardless of location), it probably impacted on me so powerfully as well, because I personally found school to be like the seventh circle of hell on so so many occasions, and one character's loneliness and desperation to fit in really hit home, and I don't think a film has related to me in such a personal way ever before. Also, some of the characters, namely the girls in the lighthouse, were almost exact replicas of my closest friends at school, and so witnessing what happened to them was probably more hard hitting than it would be for some, so in some aspects, my adoration for the crafting of the characters is very subjective.
However, the dialogue felt like how teenagers talk, the way they hint at their feelings towards something without explicitly stating it, the way some of them were hopeless romantics despite the dire circumstances, the extremely high paranoia some experience, the way some of them refuse to participate and remain blissfully unaware of what's happening around them, it was all so accurate. Basically, they created realistic teenagers and the way all of them behaved and attempted to survive and fight never felt exaggerated or ridiculously far fetched. I'm also going to praise the concept of the entire film, it's an extremely frightening thought to think that this could become a reality, although similar situations have been exemplified throughout history, so this really isn't too far removed from our reality, and that has to be one of the more disturbing elements of this film.

The direction by Kinji Fukasaku, whom Quentin Tarantino adored and dedicated Kill Bill to, was terrific. I think what makes this film so shocking is his handling of the violence. A lot of other film makers would probably gloss over the violence and only imply it (*cough* Hunger Games *cough*) because it's against minors, but Fukasaku treats the violence here no different to a confrontation between people twice the characters ages, and, therefore, his depiction of violence is authentic and a shockingly real depiction of its nature. I mean, very few films would dare to show a scene of teenagers committing suicide, yet this film did more than once, and that was brave to say the least, and was probably why the Japanese government wanted this film to be prohibited, like the did with the book, which only backfired in the end in both cases.

Anyway, the acting was terrific, considering about 40 cast members were only in their mid teens and were making their debut into acting. In particular, Ko Shibasaki's portrayal of the sexually abused and neglected juvenile Mitsuko Souma, was perhaps the highlight of the performances, although I previously explained why I probably felt it was better than most people. Nevertheless, it isn't difficult to realise why Tarantino desperately wanted her to play Gogo's sister, Yuki Yubari, in his own film. Gogo herself (Chiaki Kuriyama) was also offered her role in Kill Bill because of her performance in this, and in a film full of violent sequences, her was perhaps the most brutal. Aki Meada was excellent in embodying all of Noriko's sweet and sensitive traits, that excellently allows us to understand why Shuya (Tatsuya Fujiwara) falls in love with her and why Kitano continuously persists in ensuring that she emerges from the program as the victor. And finally, Takeshi Kitano was terrific as usual, but you wouldn't expect anything different from him though!

The soundtrack was surprisingly excellent too, I hadn't heard anything about it when I decided to watch it, so I was pleasantly surprised but how much it added to the overall experience of the film, especially the lightouse scene. In regards to that, I'm just going to state that that scene is one of the greatest scenes I have probably ever seen, although when Tarantino took inspiration from it for the bar scene in Inglorious Basterds he probably outdid it, in all honesty

Not many of these, although it did exclude some interesting scenes in the original novel either entirely or it only showed the aftermath of them. I didn't care for the added Kitano-Noriko sub-plot either, and is probably a prime example of why books should attempt to stay faithful to the novel.

I probably didn't sell this very well, but this is certainly one of the greatest films, and certainly book adaptation, that I have ever had the fortune of seeing. With the vast array of characters, I can guarantee you will find at least one character who deeply relates to you and your experiences; like how I did. Every moment is electric and fantastic, and with the infamous flashcards stating how many students are left to go, you'll constantly be guessing who is going to be bumped off next. This is a modern day parable and a far superior version of the Americanised The Hunger Games. Undoubtedly:

Also, if you were in this situation, what would you do? And for fans of the film, I urge you to go and read the book, it'll explain several things and goes into far more detail regarding each and every character. The manga is pretty good as well, if not a bit gratuitous, but still worth checking out!