“Do you know what I am thinking?”
Eros Plus Massacre is the story of anarchist, Sakae Osugi, and the events leading up to the Amakasu Incident. The beliefs of Osugi, of free love and liberation, were not only theoretical but a way of life. The title is the equation of subject and audience, love and destruction, and how they are inseparable. The film itself, however, is not merely about Osugi’s life in relation to our own but also about how his methods were/are interpreted. Students discuss his views and comment on their relevancy at length; there is a constant interplay between subject and interpreters not only in retrospection, but abstractly, where past and present juxtapose. It is significant in how appropriate this theme is psychologically as well, where self-identity is attained through the emulation of others not through a singular vision; the advocacy of feminism by means of emasculation and empowerment rather than equality and the promotion of open-mindedness. Here is a world of good ideas poorly executed, of men and women with utopian motives who deviate little from pursuing egotistic ends.
We meet Wada who erratically knocks at every door down the hallway of a hotel until he arrives at Eiko’s door; she’s in bed with another man, part of an arrangement integral to a project researching the Amakasu Incident. The story of Wada and Eiko are interwoven with the story of Osugi and feminist, Noe Ito. In Osugi’s time, the year is 1923 and truth is as obtuse and doubtful as before…or after. A character berates another with, “You should worry about your future!” but one future’s truth is another future’s lie. In addition, the film is a study on artistic relevance, particularly poignant when a filmmaker hangs himself with a celluloid noose – Yoshida was certainly pessimistic but not entirely unrealistic.
The film is certainly representative of the New Wave movement, where characters ruminate at leisure, waxing philosophical, as others carry on about their day as if this all was a common occurrence; theatrical and dreamlike is the tone. One of the characters mentions the story of Kandata, a criminal condemned to Hell who is granted forgiveness by the Buddha for his one deed of mercy (not crushing a spider beneath his foot). The Buddha lowers a spider’s thread into Hell to save him and Kandata begins climbing it to Paradise. Other sinners grasp hold of it and Kandata screams at them that the thread is his and his alone. The thread snaps and he plummets back to Hell, his selfishness condemning him even in the midst of deliverance. It’s no wonder why this little reference appears in the film; it is very much aligned with the life of Osugi, his philosophy, and his fate. Indeed the film suggests that Osugi’s unapologetic lifestyle brought about much of the jealousy and hatred he received.
Yoshishige Yoshida was the perfect director for this subject. The minimal, existentially philosophical style persistent in his technique was always evident even in later directorial works such as Wuthering Heights and Women in the Mirror. Eros Plus Massacre is a very self-aware film that is, at times, perplexing in its attempts to grapple with reality and idealism. The imagery is vicious and exaggerated but there is also a truth-seeking anxiety present, typical of Yoshida’s work. The film depicts a voyeuristic world that is unsettling but commonplace with characters who are impulsive yet reflexive. For it is by life’s extremes that we learn the meaning of balance often instructed by those chaotic individuals whose voices now only live in history and recollection.