THE BEDROOM (HISAYASU SATO, 1992)
aka An Aria on Gaze, Unfaithful Wife: Shameful Torture
original title: Uwaki-zuma chijoku zeme
Hisayasu Sato's THE BEDROOM opens with a surveillance camera being sprayed with black spray paint. Shortly afterward, the camera shakily pans along next to the body of a woman, wrapped completely in plastic.
Cut to the apartment of Kyoko and her husband, Esaka, where Kyoko is videotaping her surroundings. "You're bringing out the DEVIO again, then?" Her husband asks. "Yes, It's the only video diary that documents just me and you. Just me and you."
After some semi-flirtatious comments (that are ignored coldly by her husband), Kyoko brings up the death of someone she knew, a woman who presumably overdosed on a drug known as HALCION. This comment is just the launching point that prepares the audience for an exploration into loneliness.
Kyoko is constantly ignored and rejected by her husband, who has no desire to entertain Kyoko's idealized "family life" that she is interested in starting. After being rejected coldly, Kyoko returns (or goes for the first time, it's not precisely clear) to an sex-club referred to as "The Sleeping Room." At The Sleeping Room men act out fetishistic fantasies on women who are essentially doped up on Halcion.
During this time, Kyoko is also engaged in an affair with her dead sister's boyfriend, Kei. Kei is seemingly depersonalized from his girlfriends death, yet he still sleeps with Kyoko because of the similarities.
Kyoko repeatedly goes to The Sleeping Room, but after a while she stops taking the Halcion pills that she is presumably required to take. Despite not being on the drug, she pretends she is actually passed out, preferring to experience something instead of being dead to the world. Possibly.
Kyoko's visits to The Sleeping Room are generally pre-empted by Kyoko opening her refrigerator and possibly entering reverie, but as the film progresses it seems that Kyoko is ACTUALLY going there.
Kyoko returns home to find her lover laying on their bed with a UV light on, he's tanning because "he never gets outside anymore." The two have sex, after Kei puts a blindfold on her (oddly echoing the events that occur in The Sleeping Room). Later, when he asks for his stomach medicine and Kyoko accidentally spills his medicine chest, Kyoko discovers that her lover occasionally takes Halcion to calm his nerves and enable him to sleep.
Eventually, after a session at the club, she and another girl discover another corpse--another overdose. She and the girl go to the top of a building, where they stare at the cityscape below them and Kyoko comments on the fact that when she was a school girl she could never even imagine something like The Sleeping Room. She video tapes the girl, telling her that she is the highlight of the day's Video Diary.
Soon afterward, Kyoko discovers one of her lovers video diaries. It is Maya, her sister, the first victim in The Sleeping Room. Was her lover, Kai, the murderer? Does Mr. Takano, the enigmatic man who watches over The Sleeping Room know what's happening?
Despite the fact that throughout the first fifty minutes of the film the viewer has virtually no idea what's real and what's Kyoko's fantasy, the last fifteen minutes of THE BEDROOM bring a sense of closure that is unique in this type of film. Everything that formerly seemed nonsensical now makes sense, yet there is still enough left unsolved to keep the viewer engaged in thought about the film. In another review of the film, the reviewer commented that the film is more like a piece of video art than a film. While Sato's film is defiantly a work of art, it's not something that can be experienced to its full effect by watching only part of the film, or watching it in segments. The film hits hardest if you just "take the full ride," so to speak. The moment of clarity at the end hits the viewer hard, and one has to applaud Sato for his techniques in getting the viewer from Point A to Point B.
THE BEDROOM works best as a study of depersonalization and loneliness. Throughout the entire film Kyoko is essentially trying to "connect" with someone. She virtually idolizes her lover, she follows the school girl in order to try to discover "what kind of girls go to The Sleeping Room," and she even avoids taking her pills while in The Sleeping Room in order to experience, connect, with what is going on. Sato further pushes the idea of separation by repeatedly using Video Cameras, whether as a disconnect between a character and the situation the character is in (which is further developed in the last fifteen minutes of the film--which I'm avoiding talking about as one of the major rewards in a Sato film is how it all falls together at the end), or to emphasize Kyoko's paranoia, which oddly is bipolaric to her needy, lonely normal self. Despite the fact that she seems to be reaching for a connection with anybody, she views the camera's that are watching her as a threat.
Jack Hunter comments in an article that Hisayasu Sato's body of work is "dedicated to exposing the dark void at the heart of contemporary existence," and it couldn't have been stated better. THE BEDROOM, as aforementioned, is also a perfect example of this. Another interesting note about the film is it's inclusion of Issei Sagawa as the enigmatic Mr. Takano. Issei Sagawa is a Japanese man who, while studying in France, killed and cannibalized a woman in 1981. He was declared legally insane and deported back to Japan, where he spent 15 months in a mental institution and then checked himself out. This is a bold move by Sato, as the incorporation of an actual murderer into a film about murder itself creates an unnerving mood if the viewer is aware-- the film works just as well if the viewer is not away of Sagawa's history, but as far as creating and emphasizing a sort of "unique world," Sato knows exactly what he's doing.
Hisayasu Sato's THE BEDROOM is a bold, yet flawed film which manages to create an utter sense of depersonalization and loneliness, while still telling a great story. The visuals are great; blue and red light coat the bodies of the comatose girls of The Sleeping Room while giant TVs with constant static decorate the background. Sato's spare use of music also helps to create tension in the film; the soundtrack features immense buildup that never actually climax, keeping the viewer aurally on edge. Despite the fact that the film may seem confusing at first, if the viewer is willing to actively watch the film and engage with the way Sato is telling his story, the viewer will be rewarded at the end.