You know what; Shinya Tsukamoto may well be the forerunner of the competition that I like to call “Who will be Mona’s favourite director?” Everyone has read that and obviously instantly thought “Tetsuo? Really?” but don’t pretend that you don’t think they’re awesome. Besides, Vital is a film I’d more compare to A Snake of June, though it’s a little darker in subject matter but maybe a little more sophisticated (by which I mean there are no robot penises). Tsukamoto has stamped himself all over this film, not only is he the director, but he is also the producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, art director and editor making it the most Tsukamoto-ish movie it could be (without him having to play all of the characters too… thankfully he cast them elsewhere).
Following a car crash Hiroshi (Tadanobu Asano) wakes up in hospital to find that he has lost both his memory and his girlfriend, Ryoko. Adding insult to injury, Hiroshi has to move back in with his parents which I believe we can all relate to as being a spectacular suck-fest. While there, he finds a box filled with his old medical textbooks and as he is generally hating life as it is, he decides to undertake a degree in medical studies, something he had put off since before the accident. Hiroshi moves into a crappy apartment, immerses himself into his studies and finds his way into medical school where he outshines everybody like a boss. He also gains attention from classmate Ikumi, with whom he starts a sexual relationship.
Three years later and a few lessons into his dissection class, in which he and Ikumi are given the corpse of a woman to dissect over a period of four weeks, he realises that the cadaver is his ex-girlfriend, Ryoko (awkward). Hiroshi decides to continue dissecting his ex-girlfriend’s corpse over the next few weeks, reconstructing their relationship with visions in his head. In these visions he and Ryoko take part in erotic asphyxiation, where he will return to the ‘real world’ just as he is coming close to death in his visions. Unsurprisingly Ikumi gets a little weirded out by all of this; here is a guy who wanted nothing to do with his past and is now obsessed with it, not to mention he’s now being confronted by his ex-girlfriend’s mutilated dead body and is happily dissecting it. He acts his sadomasochistic dreams out with Ikumi, straining their relationship further which leads to quite the volatile ending.
This. Film. Is. Awesome. I’d leave it at that but I’m sure some people will require some more information so here we go… It’s morbid, poetic and stunning. There isn’t much to the dialogue but who needs speech when there is such intense acting? I fully appreciated every hand-held camera shot and Tsukamoto’s trademark coloured filters to convey the general feeling of each scene. This film is another example of Tsukamoto’s fascination with the body, but other than a few recurring ‘industrial’ images there was nothing close to a phallic shaped robot on my screen… I may have been a little disappointed about that…