September 25, 2005
I recently had the opportunity to see two incredible films, neither of which involved creatures stomping Tokyo.
Onmyoji. Set in 18th century Japan, the main character is perhaps the greatest of the Onmyoji. Fortuneteller and astronomer, wizard and priest, these adepts were the guardians and monitors of the interface between the material and spiritual worlds. Beyond the swords and sorcery, this is an epic story of love, loyalty, friendship and the triumph of good over evil (although it's a very near thing). The movie is beautiful to look at, and the world it creates is alien to the western mind, yet the underlying rationale for everyone's actions are understandable in human terms. You'll have to pay attention, because the story has layers of meaning and several themes that weave in and out of the forefront of the tale. It's in Japanese with English subtitles, and if you don't mind that then I'd say that Onmyoji is a must see.
A while back, I saw a news item where opthamologists in India were petitioning the government to ban a certain horror movie. Apparently, donated organs are rare in India because the belief in reincarnation is widespread, and relatives wouldn't dream of sending their loved ones onto the next life minus parts. Especially acute is the shortage of corneas. The movie that the medical community wanted banned may have been this next one.
Jian Gui (literally: Seeing Ghosts, but released internationally as The Eye), was made by (I think) a Hong Kong filmmaker. This movie is one of those genuinely creepy films that scares you without grossing you out. In this one, a woman named Mun receives a cornea transplant which allows her to see. This turns out to be a mixed blessing, because she loses important parts of her life since she is now sighted, yet must relearn everything about the world around her - a world she only knows by touch. Again, because of the oriental slant on life (no pun intended), actions and situations are already vaguely strange, and the atmosphere and situations that come about build upon that unease to really amp up the chills. Mun begins to realize that some things she sees are invisible to others, and she's not sure if she's hallucinating or seeing ghosts that walk among us. Eventually, she comes to believe that she must discover the truth behind the donor of her corneas, and the visions become more disturbing as time goes by. The ending is just, wow.
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