People fall in love with the wrong people all the time. But Miki Bonomiya, a character played by Yuki Amami
in Masato Harada
's "Inugami", sets a record for really bad choices. It would reveal too many surprises to explain the forbidden nature of her two romances. Let's just say they produce disturbing dreams, family ghosts, stark tragedies, mysterious fogs and angry forest gods in a remote mountain village on the island of Shikoku.
Drenched in Japanese mysticism and a plot that teeters on the ridiculous, "Inugami" is too marginal to enjoy much exposure outside its native country other than at film festivals. But evocative, moody art direction and graceful, sweeping camera movements do please the eye. It is playing in competition at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Working from the book by Masako Bando
, writer-director Harada plops us down in an enchanted village, where generations of women in the Bonomiya family watch over an urn that contains the Inugami, which are wild dog gods. The appearance of a 25-year-old schoolteacher, Akira (Atsuro Watabe
), not only stirs feelings in the heart of the spinster Miki but also riles the gods in the urn. Soon, nightmares plague the villagers, and deaths take place. With each tragedy, Miki grows younger, arousing village animosity and triggering vows of revenge against her accursed family.
Harada plays the supernatural tale amid lush forests of ancient cedar trees and a traditional house, where Miki makes exquisite paper using the old-fashioned method of mixing plants, water and glue. Junichi Fujisawa
's camera seeks high places from which to spin above or swoop down on these ill-fated people.
The movie is quite a ride, but all that is likely to haunt the minds of moviegoers are the dark and glorious settings. Amami and Watabe's passion and couplings have erotic charge, and the actors make the incredible feel credible. But one must possess a deep love of Eastern mysticism to get anything else out of this fantasy-horror-thriller.
An Asmik Ace Entertainment production
Producer: Masato Hara
Screenwriter-director: Masato Harada
Based on the book by: Masako Bando
Director of photography: Junichi Fujisawa
Production designer: Hisao Inagaki
Music: Takatsugu Muramatsu
Editor: Soichi Ueno
Miki Bonomiya: Yuki Amami
Akira Nutahara: Atsuro Watabe
Takanao Bonomiya: Kenichi Yajima
Momoyo Bonomiya: Kanako Fukaura
Seiji Doi: Eugene Harada
Rika Bonomiya: Myu Watase
Running time -- 105 minutes
No MPAA rating