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Michi a student in a conservative all-girls school, must resolve the mysterious disappearances and deaths of her fellow classmates after they found an intriguing but haunting photo of Aya, the best singer of class, who apparently is being held locked in her room, physically but not spiritually... A death curse is placed on anyone who sees Aya's photo, which seems to be taken with a "Camera Obscura" . Michi, with the help of her photography skills, might stop it before the spirit of Aya takes her life too and spreads to many more in & outside of the school.Written by
Japanese lesbian coming-of-age Gothic ghost mystery with a very Victorian flair
'Fatal Frame' is a Japanese lesbian coming-of-age Gothic ghost mystery with a very Victorian flair, all romanticism, no kink, all yearning, and no consummation. Innocent love? Yes. But anything but harmless.
To go into the film's plot without missing the point its mysteries (and even its main characters) are a bit too ever-changing and evolving, instead I'll say that the main motive of the film has to be John Everett Millais' 'Ophelia', and the film does justice to that evocative painting that is as beautiful as it is tragically sad and even unsettling. The supernatural element (ghosts) can easily be read as manifestations of extreme (often suppressed) emotions like unrequited (and forbidden) love while also being manifestations of a traumatic past. The mysteriousness and eeriness of the film doesn't just exist for its own sake but serves as an apt reflection of what its teenage characters are going through, with their feelings being new, mysterious or even scary to themselves.
If you want to know what you can expect from this film, 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' is probably a good reference point in terms of the Victorian girls' boarding school setting, the ethereal beauty, as well as the eeriness in broad daylight. The plot also involves girls suddenly disappearing, but the way in which this fits into the narrative and its function has much more in common with 'Ringu' and its dooming curse than it does with the inexplicable mysteriousness of nature in the Peter Weir classic. But in terms of the general look, feel and pacing it can be somewhat compared to 'A Tale of Two Sisters'. The way in which the mysteries pile up without ever losing the plot and having everything neatly come together is more in line with Vincenzo Natali's 'Haunter' or maybe a compressed version of a mystery anime series.
Even though its eeriness I thought was at its highest towards the beginning and in the last section the piling up of mysteries and their explanations exceed the film's climactic point, the atmosphere never lets up, nor does the subdued beauty of its visuals (I love the texture and color palette of its 16mm Kodak film stock) ever lose its classical magic. 'Fatal Frame' is conceived in the modern Japanese storytelling mode (teen-centric, lots of emotion-centric voice-overs that never leave you in doubt about character motivations, etc.), which isn't to everyone's liking, but if you are OK with this or maybe even have an affinity for that mode and if my other descriptions also sounded good to you then this one comes highly recommended.
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