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Dogra Magra (1988)
"Dogura magura" (original title)

6.8
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 158 users  
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A man is confined to a mental institution after trying to murder his fiancee. Two doctors relate his problem to an Asian philosophy that states that mental defects are transmitted from ... See full summary »

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Title: Dogra Magra (1988)

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Cast

Credited cast:
Yôji Matsuda ...
Kure Ichiro
Shijaku Katsura ...
Prof. Masaki
Hideo Murota ...
Prof. Wakabayashi
Eri Misawa ...
Moyoko
Kyôko Enami ...
Yayako
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Hidekazu Nagae
Edit

Storyline

A man is confined to a mental institution after trying to murder his fiancee. Two doctors relate his problem to an Asian philosophy that states that mental defects are transmitted from generation to generation. He learns that one of his distant ancestors murdered his wife as a way of demonstrating a point to his lord about the importance of love over the emptiness of lust and to drive home the point further, created a series of illustrations of the dead woman decaying which in turn trigger the memories of his distant descendent. But is the whole thing merely a game concocted by the two doctors, who may even have driven themselves mad? Written by Serdar Yegulalp <serdar@thegline.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Horror | Mystery | Sci-Fi

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Release Date:

15 October 1988 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Dogra Magra  »

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1.85 : 1
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User Reviews

 
Darkly fractured insides
3 September 2010 | by (Greece) – See all my reviews

A man is confined to a mental institution after trying to murder his fiancée. Two doctors relate his problem to an Asian philosophy that states that mental defects are transmitted from generation to generation. He learns that one of his distant ancestors murdered his wife as a way of demonstrating a point to his lord about the importance of love over the emptiness of lust and to drive home the point further, created a series of illustrations of the dead woman decaying which in turn trigger the memories of his distant descendant. But is the whole thing merely a game concocted by the two doctors, who may even have driven themselves mad in the process?

The first half of the film is stunning. It relates an experience to a character who doesn't remember/know it. We're given mystery that haunts and unanswered questions, mentions to "the incident" and "the man who gave you the scroll", and the movie toys with "how much of this is real and how much of it made up or imagined or hallucinated?" questions. That the protagonist is an amnesiac who therefore can neither confirm nor deny anything makes us a carte blanche on which Toshio Matsumoto writes a mystery then constantly rewrites it, he goes back and erases details or changes them or adds new ones. Dr. Masaki died a month ago but then he shows up and we're told it was all a clever ploy of his rival doctor, Dr. Wakabayashi. Then Dr. Wakabayashi disappears and Dr. Masaki tells us that he's the fiend, the bad guy, the man behind the curtain.

But the movie can be very talky when it showed us it can also be visually amazing, and there's a lot of theorizing and psychological mumbo jumbo that go nowhere because none of it helps the Dogura Magura that is about an insane young man viewing the world as though on a fractured mirror. A big part of the movie is like a game we're invited to observe without knowing the rules or like a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces are given to us one at a time. As such, the mystery is not for us to solve but rather watch it play out. To the extent that a mentally unstable protagonist who can't remember his past finds himself a pawn in the hands of his doctors the movie reminds me of a Shutter Island that is not a pastiche of 50's potboilers.

But it's also a movie made by one of the most fiercely creative voices in Japanese cinema. Toshio Matsumoto made only three feature films but all of them are very different to each other and original in their own ways. In the end, the movie explodes into a frenzy of fiery red colors and papers swirling in the air and we get a Dadaist image of a clock broken then glued together askew and the protagonist crosses over to a bloody twilight zone where he sees/hallucinates himself, or his doppelganger, surrounded by dead bodies. Then we're back in the same room we were in the start and the boy wakes up again and how much of what we saw was a dream or the delirium of an insane mind that may be even partially real or the broken pieces of memory glued together askew it's impossible to tell.


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