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Symbol (2009)

Shinboru (original title)
A man wakes up alone in a brightly illuminated white room with no windows or doors. When he presses a mysteriously phallic protuberance that appears on one wall, a pink toothbrush ... See full summary »



(screenplay), (screenplay)
4 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Hitoshi Matsumoto ...
The Man
David Quintero ...
Escargot Man, Antonio's Father
Luis Accinelli ...
Antonio's Uncle
Antonio's Mother (as Lillian Tapia)
Ivana Wong ...
Antonio's Sister
Arkangel De La Muerte ...
Aguila De Plata
Matcho Panpu ...
Tequila Joe (as Misuteru Kakao)
Dick Togo ...
El Super Demonio (as Dick Tôgô)
Salam Diagne ...
African Tribesman
Chris Gurundy
Nik Sliwerski
Jonathan Hicks


A man wakes up alone in a brightly illuminated white room with no windows or doors. When he presses a mysteriously phallic protuberance that appears on one wall, a pink toothbrush materializes from nowhere, clattering to the floor and setting in motion a genuinely bizarre chain of events. Soon the imprisoned man is engaged in absurd and hilarious attempts to escape the gleaming room, releasing random objects from the walls, creating a life sized mouse trap game in which a rope, a toilet plunger and an earthenware jug full of sushi might just be the keys to his escape. Meanwhile, in a dusty town, a green masked Mexican wrestler known as Escargot Man prepares for an important match. His family gathers around him, worried about his seeming impassivity before battle. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

room | escape | wrestler | sushi | rope | See All (22) »


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Release Date:

12 September 2009 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Symbol  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


Music by Hidekazu Sakamoto
Lyrics by Kensuke Shiga
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User Reviews

Such a Weird Yet Fun Ride
26 January 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

What the hell did I just watch? That is the immediate reaction I am sure most will feel when first watching Symbol. It was certainly the first thought that came to my mind. Believe it or not it's not a reaction I have often. Most movies, even badly made movies have a certain respect for story structure or lacking that a regard for the audience's ability to make sense of what's going on; not so with Symbol. A third of the way through, I was elated with the fact that for the first time in a while, I was watching something completely new. It is my personal belief that the difference between a genius and a vagrant on the bus mumbling half-formed thoughts and conspiracy theories is an audience. If you come into this Japanese import with that mindset I'm confident you will find something to like if not outright love about Symbol.

The movie begins with Matsumoto, an unnamed Japanese man who wakes up in a large, empty, windowless room. As he gets up an examines the white room, the only abnormality he finds is a small phallic protrusion sticking out of one of the walls. He taps it with his finger; spooky, ominous music swells. Suddenly a mess of cherubs appear slowly from out of the walls and giggle as he stands petrified. They morph back into the walls leaving only their own protuberances signaling they are all a type of switch. The man screams; smells his finger and continues to scream. There are vignettes of other stories chopped into the film; one in particular we return to constantly, involving an aging Luchador anxiously awaiting his last battle. Largely though, we're left with Matsumoto flipping switches in a frantic bid to get out of the room.

Hitoshi Matsumoto is apparently something of a big time celebrite in his homeland often playing opposite longtime partner Masatoshi Hamada. Since the eighties Matsumoto (known as the boke or funny man) and Hamada (the tsukkomi or sadist) have dominated sketch comedy TV in Japan through their "Downtown" Owarai act and various variety hour- like comedy shows. Despite a partnership that is rivaled only by maybe the South Park (1997-Present) guys, the two Japanese darlings find being around each other after the show "awkward". This would certainly explain why Hamada is in no way involved with Symbol; yet his influence is felt in every slapstick situation. There is some borrowing from the Manzai comedy tradition here but there are more visual themes associated with Bunuel and Jodorowsky not to mention a heavy dose of Kafka. It's not surprising that despite no film release in the west, the movie has been more warmly received stateside than in its native Japan.

There are various levels of subtext and meta-text at play here yet I'm inclined to belay all that and simply recommend this bizarre little trip as strongly as I can. This movie is as absurd as you're liable to get so for those who don't see the humor in a loudly dressed Japanese man struggling to escape from a human-sized Skinner box, don't bother. Those of you who are curious to see one of the goofiest, wackiest, most nonsensical movies ever committed to film, you need to see Symbol. It's hard to find online so if you find a version sans subtitles, snatch it anyway. This movie is one of those rare foreign movies you don't need a translation to understand, or rather not understand what's going on.

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