Thursday 5 April 2012
Devouring Films: Battle Royale
As I'm sure is fairly obvious, I watched Battle Royale because of the whole Hunger Games thing. I mean, I had heard of Battle Royale before then, but I was fairly horrified by the whole concept- kids killing each other, what the hell?! Obviously reading and seeing The Hunger Games basically broke that taboo for me, and so I became a lot more interested in watching Battle Royale (plus they had it on Netflix, so how could I not watch it?!) And I don't really want to get into a whole Battle Royale vs The Hunger Games thing because 1. It's not as simple a comparison as you might think, and 2. I haven't read the book of Battle Royale so I can't make a fully informed decision. Also because I don't want to be mean about The Hunger Games, because Battle Royale is bloody AMAZING.
Seriously. Ok, so I don't want to tell you too much about it because I want you to watch it for yourselves and figure it out, but I'll say this. The basic premise of Battle Royale is that the Japanese government has collapsed, and all these kids walked out of school one day (like, 800,000, not just a few kids...) and as a punishment they set up this Battle Royale thing. So far, so Hunger Games (I don't know how aware of Battle Royale Suzanne Collins was when she wrote The Hunger Games, but there are a fair few similarities). But the thing is, this Battle Royale initiative seems to be fairly secretive, so instead of being fully aware that there is a chance they might be picked for this battle to the death, a whole class is kidnapped and then told they have to kill or be killed. And I think this is SO much more horrifying than The Hunger Games (here's that comparison thing coming) for two reasons- Not having any idea that it could happen, they have no way to at least slightly mentally prepare for it, so it's such a horrifying shock of a thing to have to do; and, even worse, the people they have to kill are their classmates, or, if you like, their best friends. I mean, really, it's horrifying!
One of the things I really like about Battle Royale is the way that every single death is made clear, and you get a few seconds to absorb the shock of each of them. Rather than just being like violence porn, you really get the sense that every life was precious, and it's tragic that each of them was lost. I feel like this was something lacking from The Hunger Games, where many of the deaths were just obscure and undocumented. Even more extraordinarily, some of the children in Battle Royale choose suicide, and refuse to be part of the government's game. I mean, colour me surprised that there are suicides in a Japanese movie, but really it seems like a much stronger protest than being involved in killing anyone else, and it's something that I can't imagine seeing in an American movie- in a way, it's a far more noble action, and it's just not something that fits into an American, individualistic way of seeing the world.
But anyway- I've already said more than I wanted to say, and I really just wanted to describe this one part of the film that I thought was really fantastic, and really reflective of what would actually happen in such a horrifying situation. While it's not really integral to the plot, I'm basically going to describe it as it happened, so if you want to watch the movie then turn away now (or, you know, start reading again where I put end spoiler...) So, basically, about 7 or 8 of the girls from the class have gotten together in this lighthouse and are essentially pretending that nothing's wrong- they're just on a nice school trip and are hanging out and everything's fine. Only one of the girls dares to say: ''we're all going to die tomorrow, aren't we?" (I should explain- if after 3 days there isn't a winner, everyone dies) and for this she gets scolded for being so negative! Everything's fine! And they just keep kidding themselves that this is the case, until one of their number is accidentally poisoned (and it is an accident, but to explain would be to give too much away) and everything goes INSANE. All the girls just snap, everyone starts accusing each other, and then they all end up shooting and killing each other. Which, obviously, is horrible, but also feels like something that would actually happen- delusions that everything's fine, followed by one little thing (ok, a poisoning isn't a little thing, but if it wasn't that, it would have been something else) that makes everyone distrust and hate each other, and, eventually, everyone killing everyone else. It's messed up, but it's probably the position that most real people would actually take in the circumstances. END OF KIND OF SPOILER.
So, basically, I was super duper impressed by Battle Royale, and also when I say I won't compare it to The Hunger Games, I'm apparently lying. Good to know, I guess! Basically, if you want kind of a more fucked up version of The Hunger Games, with arguably a better story behind it AND a belief that every death counts, then this is perfect for you. And even if you think you don't want that, you probably do so watch this anyway.