Directed by: Gakuryu Ishii
One afternoon, in a Japanese college, neighbouring hospital and nearby town, people suddenly start dying. We follow various interconnecting groups of people as they try to understand, try to escape, but eventually die, one by one...
This is one of the most bizarre and off-kilter films I’ve seen in a very long time. Using virtually no special fx whatsoever, “Isn’t Anyone Alive” depicts the end of days in as compelling a way as any disaster movie.
We’re introduced to various groups of people: a group of students discussing urban legends (and one in particular they started themselves, regarding secret underground laboratories at the hospital). Then there’s the couple facing up to the fact that the man had got his ex-girlfriend pregnant and the three of them will need to be involved in supporting the baby. On top of that there’s the ex-con visiting his sister who’s a nurse at the hospital and two guys who survived a train crash in town. Each story thread is just part of the everyday tapestry of life. And then people start dying. It’s an isolated incident at first, but soon more and more are convulsing and dying in seconds.
The film makes no attempt to explain what is happening, or how widespread it could be. It just is. This might be difficult for western audiences to accept – where’s the heroic scientist/warrior/cop/soldier, to figure out what’s happening and save the day? Well, if he’s out there, he’s not here.
So what does that leave us with? Groups of everyday people trying to survive. And failing. This has been described as a black comedy, and there are some funny moments to be had. For example, an overly dramatic woman, discovering her boyfriend dead, wants to die next to him – so someone obliges her.
Considering how slight the story is, this is a long film – nearly 2 hours – and after a while, these people and their deaths become a mix of bleak mundanity. However, I have to admit that it all but redeems itself in it’s finale. Here, we get a true glimpse of the end, a real comprehension of what is happening, and it’s....kind of wonderful.
Approach with caution – this is an acquired taste, but if you want an unique and personable vision of the end of the world as we know it, then check it out.
7 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)