Vital (2004) – movie review

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Movie Review by Susan Hodgetts

Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Nami Tsukamoto, Kiki, Kazuyoshi Kushida, Lily

Director: Shinya Tsukamoto

This macabre Japanese exercise in anatomy and consciousness is not for those with a weak stomach. Or those who treasure convincing plots.

Wannabe doctor Hiroshi Takagi (Tadanobu Asano) finds his medical studies on hold when he is involved in a car crash and suffers amnesia. He soon finds his way back to his medical studies, but walks around as if he’s in a dream. He is aware that something traumatic has happened, but he cannot remember what.

As he gets involved in his anatomy class, grisly scenes unfold as the students begin to dissect a dead body. (Yep, the camera spends a lot of time in the morgue, so if you’re not a fan of donated organs and scraped back skin, best hire a comedy). Slowly, Hiroshi begins to realise that he is in fact dissecting his girlfriend Ryoko’s body, who it transpires died in the car crash which he survived.

As more is revealed of his past sado-masochistic relationship with the messed up Ryoko, Hiroshi continues to attract odd women at medical school, entrancing the brainbox Ikumi (Kiki), who’s already led a college teacher to kill himself over her.

The film wants to be high in shock value and seems low on psychological rationale. There is no explanation as to why Ryoko had a death wish and the death of the teacher Dr Nakai, Ikumi’s lover, seems pointless. The character of Ikumi, so figuratively important in making Hiroshi realise a few truths, is sadly not given anywhere near the story weight she deserves and is woefully underused.

The film makes hints at intellectual stimulation with talk of robots, memory and consciousness but it’s too pretentious to have any effect. The plot is unconvincing, macabre and downright miserable.

1 out of 6 stars