“Japanese director Shohei Imamura’s true-story drama starring Ken Ogata as a con-man and serial killer who preys on women.
Vengeance Is Mine is Shohei Imamura’s troubling film about Akira Nishiguchi, the son of a devout Catholic family, who went on a murder rampage in Japan between 1963 and 1964.
Released in 1979, it was considered by many as ‘the Japanese In Cold Blood’. However, while Truman Capote’s novel and Richard Brooks’ film adaptation offered motives for only a heightened sense of the disturbing complexity of human nature.
Throughout 140 minutes, Imamura lays bare the possibility of man’s dark and violent inner-self, denying his audience what he knows they desire the most ‘ an explanation for his protagonist’s irrational brutality. Approaching Nishiguchi, renamed Enokizu, with moral ambivalence, Imamura portrays the murderer from a number of perspectives; as humorous, violent, passive, evil and charming, never allowing him to be pigeon-holed as a simple psychopath.
His murders too, are depicted with objectivity. Neither siding with the victim nor the killer, Imamura keeps his camera at middle distance, filming violent scenes in documentary-style, with no shock-cuts and no rapid camera moves, just cold impartiality. Ultimately the protagonist’s motive is probed with one unsettling answer ‘he hasn’t one.
Beginning with a squad car crawling up a mountain road and unfolding as the police draw the past out of their arrestee, Vengeance is Mine won every major award in Japan during the year of its release. Starring Ken Ogata as the alluring, fascinating, yet repellent Nishiguchi, it also stands as a reminder of its late director’s talent and significance in Japanese New Wave cinema.”
From Sky Arts.
My comment: the film explores the dark elements of the human character. Despite the subhuman nature of the lead character, knowing that he is a psychotic killer, I could not wait to see what he was going to do with the people who happened to cross his path and was gagging to know how he was going to carry out his murderous acts. There is no doubt that Iwao Enokizu, the protagonist, is the most atrocious character in this violent film. On the other hand, those around him, be they Iwao’s wife or his father, could not be deemed decent in their behaviour either. There is a subplot involving these two engaging in an indecent relationship. In a nutshell, Vengeance Is Mine is highly charged, brutal and aberrant yet it is watchable and engrossing.