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Chaos (2000)

Kaosu (original title)
A man gets involved in a kidnapping scheme with the wife of a wealthy businessman. She lets herself be tied up and confined in his house while he sends the ransom demand. When he returns ... See full summary »



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Cast overview:
Ken Mitsuishi ...
Masato Hagiwara ...
Satomi / Saori Impostor


A man gets involved in a kidnapping scheme with the wife of a wealthy businessman. She lets herself be tied up and confined in his house while he sends the ransom demand. When he returns home that night, however, he finds her laying dead on the floor. In a panic he buries her body deep in the woods and tries to return to his ordinary life. One day, he thinks he spots her walking down the street. Is his mind playing tricks on him, or has she somehow returned from the grave? Written by Jean-Marc Rocher <rocher@fiberbit.net>

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Plot Keywords:

kidnapping | one word title | See All (2) »


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Release Date:

21 October 2000 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Chaos  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$2,428 (USA) (7 March 2003)


$4,292 (USA) (14 March 2003)

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Did You Know?


Remade as Chaos See more »

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User Reviews

Enjoyable, if inscrutable
9 July 2005 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

I can easily see my rating for director Hideo Nakata's Chaos (aka Kaosu) going up on subsequent viewings--if I can ever figure out the plot. I doubt anyone has ever accused Japanese genre directors of being overly transparent, but usually Nakata is not quite this inscrutable.

It's not that Chaos makes no sense. With just a little bit of puzzle sorting, most viewers should be able to piece together the basics. And the gist of the plot is quite good, told with a lot of style by Nakata--after Dark Water (aka Honogurai mizu no soko kara, 2002) Chaos may just be his best film visually. But there are many plot details that most viewers will not be able to figure out on a first viewing, and given the somewhat rushed ending and extremely puzzling dénouement, it's difficult for me to award more than a 7, or a "C", after seeing Chaos only once.

At the very least, potential viewers should be forewarned that they're likely to leave the film scratching their heads in wonder. Chaos may be less than satisfactory to you if you do not plan on watching the film multiple times and reading a lot of analysis online.

For those who haven't seen the film yet, it's probably better to not give out too many details --to an extent, the effectiveness depends on figuring out what's going on, mystery style, so I'll try to keep my usual synopsis relatively vague/incomplete. As presented on the surface in the first few scenes, the story involves a bank executive, Komiyama (Ken Mitsuishi), and his wife, Saori (Miki Nakatani). They're having lunch together. Komiyama goes to pay their bill as Saori heads outside. As we learn later, Komiyama didn't see his wife when he went outside, but didn't think it odd enough to be alarmed. While he's at work however, a man whom we shortly learn is named Kuroda (Masato Hagiwara) has kidnapped his wife and is demanding 30 million yen as ransom. There are other odd complications--Kuroda contacts Satomi's sister, for instance--and eventually there are many twists.

"As presented on the surface" above might suggest to some viewers that there is some heavy rubber reality stuff happening here. That's not the case. Rather, Chaos is a Tarantinoesque thriller, complete with the complicated double-crossing and fractured timeline that you'd expect from a heavily Tarantino-influenced film. The principal female character also seems pretty crazy at times, but it's not clear how far we're meant to take that.

The timeline of Chaos is, well, chaotic to say the least. That's one of the aspects that make it so difficult. About 75% of the film seems to be presented backwards. Here, we see sequence E, which is followed by sequence D explaining how we got to sequence E, then sequence C and so on. Except that there are a few sequence F's and G's thrown in to ensure that the plot isn't too easy to figure out--as it might be if we could discern a simple pattern.

Surprisingly, maybe, a lot of this temporal mishmash begins to fall into place about two-thirds of the way into the film. At least if we overlook a few scenes. It may not help that some characters look very similar to one another--in fact, I believe that two are played by the same actress, Vertigo (1958)-style (I can't read the Japanese credits to check)--but this has to be the case, because as in Vertigo, it is one of the hinges of the plot. In any event, the "infinite regression of justifications and motivations" timeline is a very interesting idea, even if this isn't a perfect realization of it.

Vertigo may be a more concrete reference that you'd think. Next to the Tarantino influence, Nakata is more in a Hitchcock mode here than his standard horror/thriller mode. Nakata even manages to produce just about the most creative reference I've seen to the Psycho (1960) shower sequence (right after a character walks up a stairway carrying a red umbrella, for those who have seen the film). I suppose that if Hitchcock were a Japanese genre director working around the turn of the 21st Century, this is something like what he'd produce.

Although the usual Nakata horror material is mostly absent, other elements of his style are here in full force, such as the regular appearance of water in various guises. I'm not sure what water symbolizes to him, but he tends to film it as effectively mysterious, permeating and shaping the world, while his characters often overlook it (Dark Water in contrast marks the instant when Nakata's characters must come face to face with the force). A very intriguing book on Nakata's water symbolism could be written, but we should probably wait until he has a larger body of work behind him.

Another Japanese director who has employed a lot of water symbolism is Shinya Tsukamoto. Like that director's A Snake of June (aka Rokugatsu no hebi, 2002), Chaos has elements of an erotic thriller, and like Tsukamoto, the eroticism tends to be twisted/depraved here, although it is a more minor feature.

The cinematography in Chaos is often subtle and symbolic. The colors are rich and varied. Nakata makes great use of shadows and very careful placement of background elements, both human and inanimate. Equally sublime, although underused, is the score, especially the spacey, percussion-heavy material, which is somewhere between Pink Floyd and the Goblin score for Dario Argento's Suspiria (1977).

If only I could figure out the plot better.

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