Kairo or: I wish I didn’t have one

Watching both of the films, both the original Kurosawa and the unfortunate remake, I was struck with a boredom as horrifying as the films were intended to be.

There were all the classic horror features in the original Kairo, the brooding atmosphere, the discrepancies between the seemingly normal locales and the “scary” events, the high pitched and off key music, it is all there. But it misses the most important conceit of all horror films; sympathy. We have to be sympathetic to the characters that we are watching, otherwise we start rooting for whatever nebulous evil is attacking or viewers. Using modern films as examples, we can see the establishment of likable people. The Conjuring stars a happy family, as well as a scarred couple. The Evil Dead occurs when a group heads out into the woods in an attempt to ween one of their members off of heroin addiction. Noble goals.

The point is, I never felt any sympathy for these characters. They actually annoyed me. Harue went on and on about how lonely she was, despite the presence of someone that genuinely seemed to care about her. And then she becomes disturbingly happy over a voyeuristic ghost, which should assuage her fear of being alone, right? No, she commits suicide. Junko undergoes a similar ennui, despite having Michi kindly watching over her. To me, these people are as lonely as they are because they’re just too selfish to notice anyone else. This doesn’t involve technology.

And then there was the whole confusing “Hades ran out of space” debacle. Fine. Then they manifest inside computers, which means they’re made of… electrons? Photons? Reasonably, one of those two. And no, I won’t accept “ectoplasm” as an answer, because ghosts have inconsistent properties. Sometimes they have mass, other times they don’t. When people turn to ash, they emit radiation (most likely gamma, which are photons) to create those shadows. If they are photons, then they don’t have mass, how can the afterlife overfill? If they do have mass, how do they move throughout the internet? Are ghosts simply information? Why are they so ill defined? Yes, I’m nitpicking, but only because the ghost motif appears to be a lazy excuse to convey the medium of “technology bad”. And after HUM2305, I’m just tired of hearing about how technology is bad.

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One thought on “Kairo or: I wish I didn’t have one

  1. I think you neglect the point of the [Japanese version of the] film. Sympathy for characters is not always necessary for a good film, or at least for a film that does what it sets out to do. Stanley Kubrick mostly treats his characters unsympathetically, using the camera as a sort of window through which to view their world, rather than an opening in their heads through which to feel their feelings. And many would argue that he is a vastly brilliant director, perhaps one of the best of all time.

    As for Kairo, I do not believe that sympathy for its characters gets in the way of what it tries to convey. Its haunting, eerie mood of desperation and loneliness serves to spook the viewer—whether he or she likes the onscreen characters or not. And it is harsh to be wholly unsympathetic to them either way; the film depicts them as poor, lonely souls that are, at the least, worthy of some pity. The film certainly achieves its goal: to tell a story of lonely people haunted by the fact that they may be lonely forever.

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