- 1h 44min
A seasoned detective is called in to rescue a politician held hostage by a lunatic. In a brief moment of uncertainty, he misses the chance for action. Leaving his job and family without expl... Read allA seasoned detective is called in to rescue a politician held hostage by a lunatic. In a brief moment of uncertainty, he misses the chance for action. Leaving his job and family without explanation, he makes his way to a mountain forest, where there is a peculiar tree called char... Read allA seasoned detective is called in to rescue a politician held hostage by a lunatic. In a brief moment of uncertainty, he misses the chance for action. Leaving his job and family without explanation, he makes his way to a mountain forest, where there is a peculiar tree called charisma. Should it be destroyed or protected? People stand divided over this one tree.
The chief difficulty is not in the content, but in how the film is sequenced. Editing shifts our attention from one scene to another very quickly at some points, sometimes with no more matter than what a static image imparts within a few seconds. This is true most urgently toward the very end, where Kurosawa seeks to tie up the loose threads of his characters, but he does so in a way that's distinctly disordered relative to how the entire rest of the movie plays out. Of course, that manner may well be wholly intentional, a reflection of the content, but it's still a quirk that makes it difficult to engage as a viewer.
The heart of 'Charisma' is unexpectedly straightforward, though make no mistake that the audience must remain actively attentive or key aspects will float right over our heads. There's a concrete narrative on hand, not wholly difficult to follow, yet the plot isn't necessarily fully realized without consideration of the themes and notions within. These are mostly revealed in a rather matter-of-fact way through dialogue, and even still it's how everything is interconnected that is the crux of the film. As protagonist Yabuike retreats from the city and enters the forest he finds that the conflicting ideas he hoped to leave behind only take on new form in the wild space.
Thus 'Charisma' becomes an exploration of battling philosophies: management that requires pruning; salvation that may alternately mean sacrifice, or at its extreme, cleaning the slate; the value of the one versus the many, and the effort and difficulty of protecting both. The violent, indifferent element of capitalist greed; the tumult of rebellious nihilism; the wisdom of finding a balanced, individualized path - and the chaos that path can create. There is also plain examination of how any of these inclinations can bring peace with placation, or great disturbance with rejection.
The characters embodying these philosophies are complex and varied, and the cast realizes them with deft subtlety. For every acutely jarring moment of comedy, aggression, or otherwise bombast, so much of the movie is very low-key in its presentation, and its stars mirror Kurosawa's slant with performances that are generally dry and nuanced in movement and delivery. When any sense of action does pick up, picture and player alike dexterously leap to match the tone, with no loss in fidelity. 'Charisma' never feels so meticulous and exacting in its construction as to be rigid, yet all involved, and every aspect, is so finely tuned and aligned that it feels slightly less than natural.
If all these words seem a bit much, consider them an extension of the feature. As both writer and director Kiyoshi Kurosawa has packed as significant amount of content into these 100 minutes, and it can be hard to parse every now and again. One needn't be bogged down in the details to enjoy the whole, yet the whole is enriched by the details - there's a meta commentary here about getting lost in the forest for the trees, yet without the trees one can't enjoy the forest. A viewer certainly has to be mindful to derive any enjoyment. But for anyone willing to sit down, strap in, and keep their eyes on the prize, 'Charisma' is a greatly rewarding film that's well worth seeking out.
- Aug 19, 2021