Vital is a Japanese film, made in 2004, by cult director Shinya Tsukamoto about a medical student who is desperately searching for his memories that were lost, along with the life of his girlfriend, in a car accident. Can Hiroshi regain his memories? Will he find out who his girlfriend really was?
Other Names: ヴィタル (Vitaru)
Director: Shinya Tsukamoto
Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Nami Tsukamoto, Kiki, Ittoku Kishibe
Running Time: 1hrs 26mins
I remember seeing the poster for the movie at the cinemas, and I thought to myself ‘I have to watch this!’ That was back in 2004 when the movie was about to be released in the here in the UK. I actually didn’t see this movie till a couple of weeks ago on TV. Looking at the duration of the movie made me a bit sceptical about the pace and quality of the story, however in my opinion I think director Tsukamoto was able to pull it off! The movie is only 86 minutes, but because it is so well paced with a great deal of content, but I guarantee it will be an amazing experience
Hiroshi wakes up in hospital with no memory of how he got there. His father soon tells him that he was involved in a car accident, which also took the life of his girlfriend Ryoko. Hiroshi is now trying to regain his memory, and in this process he discovers that he was aspiring to be a doctor. He tries to continue life, continuing his studies in medicine. As well as this, he forms a relationship with Ikumi, a classmate who had suddenly become infatuated with Hitoshi, which aids in bringing back some of his memory, which involves another woman with whom he has a relationship with. His memory is clearer and, through a four-month medical study of the human body, he realizes that the body he is dissecting is actually his dead girlfriend. Hitoshi becomes obsessed with the body, desperately trying to remember and understand who she really was.
The movie begins with the protagonist Hiroshi awaking in a hospital unable to recognize anyone around him. We learn that the man explaining the situation to him is his father, who explains to Hiroshi about the accident that put him in hospital. After being discharged, Hiroshi finds a box in his room filled with books on doctors and medicine, which he begins to study, and enrolls into a medical school. While at the medical school, one of his classmates, Ikumi, suddenly becomes infatuated with him. During his course at his college, one of his projects is to study the human body, by means of a dissection.
Ikumi is in his group, and soon a relationship begins between the two characters, which brings back memories of a relationship he used to have with another woman in the past. He soon realized that the body on his dissecting table is the woman from his past, his girlfriend Ryoko, also involved in the accident Hiroshi was in, who died. Hiroshi believes this is more than a coincidence and is now desperately trying to regain his memories so he can remember who the woman really was.
Shinya Tsukamoto adds arty scenes, which give an abstract, surreal like, feel through out the movie. He lets us delve into the protagonist’s mind where we can comprehend the feeling of being disoriented after a traumatic incident, especially his situation involving amnesia. Also the incorporation of Hiroshi’s dreams and/or flash backs, makes the viewer as confused as Hiroshi himself.
Before I started watching the movie, and during the first few minutes of it, my first impression was that it was a thriller about a man who is haunted by his memories. However, as the story unfolds I realised that it is actually a drama, an eerie drama, possibly with a bit of horror in the mix. I guess if you are looking for a thriller or hardcore horror, than this movie will probably disappoint you, however I always watch movies with an open mind so the pace and outcome of the movie did not disappoint me at all, even though I was expecting a thriller.
The visual for this piece of work is quite graphic, especially the scenes involving the dissections on the human bodies. There also seems to be a fetish of some sort regarding strangulation, which is not explicitly explained, so there are creepy elements included as well. However I think this is a movie everyone should considered seeing!
Ultimately I believe the movie, although being about the quest to regain his memory, is about the love that bonded the Hiroshi and Ryoko together, which is a concept visited frequently throughout the movie in various ways. A beautiful and unique arty piece by Shinya Tsukamoto, with an outstanding, and believable performance by the cast, especially Tadanobu Asano, is one that I highly recommend anybody to watch…at least twice.
I give this a 9/10.
You can buy Vital from Yes Asia.
You can buy Vital from Amazon.
You can buy Vital from Play-Asia.