“You mustn’t think our film is just labored theorizing. The officials’ attempts to convince R that he is R are amusing and bizarre. I think it’s a spot-on depiction of all us Japanese in all our amusing bizarreness.”–
FEATURING: Yung-Do Yun, Fumio Watanabe, , Akiko Koyama
PLOT: After the failed execution of a Japanese-Korean double murderer, various state functionaries are at a loss as how to proceed when the criminal’s body refuses to die. Going to increasingly outlandish lengths to remind the convict of why he is there and condemned, the prison’s officials inadvertently explore the nature of crime, nationality, and culpability. Eventually a young woman is introduced to the group, and the captors decide to get drunk.
- The criminal in Death By Hanging is based on Ri Chin’u, who also murdered two Japanese school girls. In addition to his crimes, Ri Chin’u gained a degree of fame for his extensive writings while in prison.
- Much of the dialogue between R and his “sister” is taken from actual correspondences between Ri Chin’u and a Korean journalist.
- Death by Hanging came during Certified Weird satire Japanese Summer: Double Suicide. Like most of ‘s mid-to-late 1960s work, Hanging was initially ignored in America, not even screening for the first time until 1974 and not officially reaching home video until 2016. ‘s most experimental period, made back-to-back with the
INDELIBLE IMAGE: The movie is stuffed to the gills with claustrophobic shots of slapstick fused with philosophy, none more so than the penultimate scene: an unlikely combination of prison officials getting hammered around a “table” while the convict “R” and his (probably imaginary) sister consider the nature of guilt. The drinkers take turns discussing how they came to this kind of work while R, reclining with the young woman beneath a Japanese flag, comes to the conclusion that though he committed his crimes, he is not responsible for them.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Stubborn corpse; rape re-enactment; hallucination participation
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Death By Hanging starts with a very traditional documentary approach, including narration reeling off statistics and some expository shots of a nondescript execution facility in a prison compound. Quickly, however, the aura of formality disintegrates as the hapless officials endeavor in vain to make sense of the film’s central conceit: a young convict refusing to die. Their efforts to restore his memory and edge him toward accountability grow desperate and extreme until a point is reached where everyone involved in the process begins to believe in the unreal.
Original trailer for Death by Hanging
COMMENTS: While most leftist directors merely point a shotgun at Continue reading 233. DEATH BY HANGING (1968)