review

'Killing': Nova hasn't forgotten the razor-sharp Tsukamoto

Onze score

So there is somebody who has not forgotten the prolific, razor-sharp Shin’ya Tsukamoto after all! Cinema Nova is releasing his latest film, the samurai drama Killing, and is reprising his incredible cult trilogy Tetsuo.

Shin’ya Tsukamoto never really disappeared from the scene completely. In 2016, he came to the Ghent Film Festival to talk about his expressionist anti-war film Fires on the Plain. In September last year, he was in Venice to present Killing, a samurai film with the same message: there is nothing good about war. Tsukamoto will never be mainstream, but fortunately there are cinemas that don’t care about that, like Cinema Nova.

In Killing, the carefree life of the young and charming ronin Mokunoshin comes to an abrupt and violent end. Japan in the 19th century is suffering under its own bellicosity and gangs of raiders plague the region. It is time to put an end to perfecting his sword skills with the hot-headed farmer’s son who dreams of the heroism of a samurai. It is time for real work. Time to spill blood.

But Mokunoshin has no experience killing people whatsoever. And in any case, killing is not to be romanticized or celebrated. Killing doesn’t really go any deeper than that; the plot is rather meagre fare. The film’s budget was also limited. Tsukamoto strives for a realistic and thus thought-provoking depiction of brutal and possibly senseless violence. The hand-held camera immerses you in the action roughly and brashly. But the downside of this is that you lose perspective on the whole.

Killing is a good film, but it is not a highlight of Tsukamoto’s oeuvre. He thanks his reputation to the body horror of his cyberpunk trilogy Tetsuo. Cinema Nova is screening The Iron Man, Body Hammer, and The Bullet Man consecutively during a Tetsuo Night.

It is a completely crazy idea because it takes an iron constitution to sit through only one Tetsuo instalment. The high-speed editing, music, plot jumps, camera acrobatics, and extreme, destructive violence and havoc that a mechanized, revenge-obsessed man wreaks, all blend together in a surrealist attack on your senses. Who dares to try all three?

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