Noriko’s Dinner Table (Sion Sono, 2005)

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A continuation of Suicide Club, Noriko’s Dinner Table delves deeper into the issues of identity explored in the first film, without the pop culture madness. It retains the harsh satire, but mostly circumvents the extreme violence and gore of the first. It is much less a horror film than it’s predecessor as well, though it’s nature and suggestion is just as disturbing.

Noriko finds happiness and acceptance on an online internet community. She finds her life in a small Japanese town dull, her parents repressive, and existence meaningless. She runs away from home to Tokyo, to find her Internet friends and to find happiness.

The film is far from linear, and delves into different perspectives, tangents and point of views. The film is especially focused on four characters, three of which are members of the same family, the fourth an outsider who brings them all together.

Her name is Kumiko, a young woman, alias “Ueno Station 54”. She runs a small organization that hires out “actors” to be stand in families for lonely and desperate people. It’s through these creations that people are able to relive the past or experience missed opportunities. Some, on the other hand, strive to act out violent crimes that they could never actually commit against the people they know. We move into a strangely apt, though satirically tinged, back story about social roles, and our desire to be lions when some of us have to be rabbits…

This service proves valuable, as completely detached from individual identity, people are able to experience emotions more fully and also are allowed closure where in the real world we wouldn’t have any. A member of the “suicide club” explains, that lying openly and pursuing emptiness is more rewarding, because it eliminates pain.

The characters in the film are not afraid of physical death, in fact, it seems to be inevitable and immediate. Emotional or psychological death is more difficult, it’s longer, more strenuous and you keep on living.

We try to put ourselves in the place of others, but just empathizing is not enough, we must become the other person. If we become too attached, more people become hurt. We watch our friend get brutally murdered, it brings satisfaction to the man who does it, he can finally be the lion, we accept our roles as rabbits and vases.

Now that I want to reach out and touch the real you, you’re gone and I can’t get you back. I can keep on fighting and killing, destroying the physical… but it makes no different, I suffice to play along, put on a happy face, pretend to be someone I’m not because it means I can hold on for just a little longer. I don’t have the strength to just be nothing.

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