Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Lament of a Lamb – review

dvdDirector: Junji Hanado

Release date: 2002

Contains spoilers

Depending on where you look, Hitsuji No Uta is listed as The Lament of a Lamb or Lament of the Lamb – to keep this distinct from the anime I have reviewed under the first variant.

Clearly therefore this is based on the manga of the same Japanese title and thus follows pretty much the same basic story. However there is very much a different focus within that story as we shall see.

dreamingThe story begins with dreams, dreams of a girl in a kimono, of blood dripping and of red smeared over a white painted face. These are the dreams that haunt Kazuna Takashiro (Shun Oguri), a young orphan. He lives with his Aunt and Uncle and his classmates seem to think he might be unwell as he has been sleeping in class a lot.

Shun Oguri as KazunaHe enjoys watching a girl called Yaegashi paint as she seldom laughs. She has been painting a still life and when she tries to remove the canvas she cuts her finger. He mentions his dreams as he helps her with the canvas but when he becomes aware of the actual blood he faints. When he comes round he claims he must be a little anaemic and then agrees to model for her.

On the way home he sees the face of a girl on a passing train that triggers a memory, as does the sound of a temple bell that his Aunty has bought. His uncle offers to adopt him but the old memories are clearly haunting him. He looks in a photobook and remembers his father walking away when he was a child and then dreams of his mother, for the first time in years.

Natsuki Kato as ChizunaThe memories cause him to find his old house, cutting class and missing his modelling session with Yaegashi as a result. He had snuck to the house once before and it was empty. He remembers that his father took his sister and left him with Aunty and Uncle, making him feel abandoned. The house is now occupied by Chizuna (Natsuki Kato), his older sister. She tells him dad is dead, he died 6 months ago and Uncle is aware of it, and that she suffers from an incurable hereditary disease, a vampire disease that makes her crave blood. She tells him to leave and not come back. At home Uncle, unaware that Kazuna has spoken to his sister, maintains that his father is alive.

a fantasy momentThe next day he models for Yaegashi but a sudden rain causes them to have to clean the art room floor. She gets red upon her hand and he leaps upon her – an action she takes very much as an aggressive, and yet not unwanted, sexual advance. He, however, can only see himself biting into her neck. He runs from the room and out into the rain. He imagines slaughtering his classmates.

This is where the film is somewhat stronger in content, for a brief moment, than the subsequent anime and the sequence works really well. From the fantasised attack we next see him led outside the familial house, unconscious in the rain, by Dr Minase. Minase worked with his father and is trying to help Chizuna. The disease has been passed down the maternal line – it killed their mother – and it was thought that Kazuna had escaped it as boys tended not to develop it if they did not show symptoms by the age of two. The only two vampires are the siblings.

offered first feedThis is the thrust of the film, a sense of isolation and abnormality as a metaphor for growing up and puberty. Kazuna leaves his family (those who have actually cared for him), as well as deliberately breaking Yaegashi’s heart, so that he might protect them all from his disease, whilst he develops a bond with the one person who he believes can understand him, his sister. There is a theme of replacement – Chizuna replaced her mother in her father’s eyes and Kazuna replaces his father for Chizuna – but the underlying hints of incest that were in the manga and anime are not readily apparent, it is more replacing on an emotional and caring level.

another fantasy momentThe darker familial secrets that appeared and the underlying obsession felt by Minase also fail to materialise in this, but are only really missing if you knew they were there in the other formats.

This is a slow paced film, a drama exploring growing up – though it misses, in some respects, the more familiar coming of age story. Perhaps not as lyrically beautiful as the subsequent anime it is still worth time and effort. However, if you manage to track down the DVD you will then have to track down a subtitle file online. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

No comments: