Battle Royale is a Japanese film made in the year 2000. Up until this year I was completely unaware of it, but upon arriving in Japan I received several winning endorsements of the movie. So, I decided to check it out.
Before I get into it, I’m gonna say that I loved this movie. It’s been added to my slowly growing list of favorite movies. I’d say it’s one of the best films ever made and highly, highly recommend it.
The concept, while utterly implausible, is very interesting. If it weren’t so well done, I might have hated the idea. Here’s the basic summary: Japanese teenagers are getting uncontrollable. They refuse to be controlled by the adults, they don’t attend school, they kill people, steal things. The government, fed up with the disobedience constructs the BR law. Each year, a high school class is selected via impartial lottery to do battle with each other to the death on a deserted island. There is a time limit of three days, and if there is not a single survivor (there can be only one winner) within that time, all of the students are killed and no one gets to return to their home. Ridiculous concept, but it’s deeper than you think.
Director’s Statement (translated from Japanese):
“I immediately identified with the 9th graders in the novel, Battle Royale. I was fifteen when World War II came to an end. By then, my class had been drafted and was working in a munitions factory. In July 1945, we were caught up in artillery fire. Up until then, the attacks had been air raids and you had a chance of escaping from those. But with artillery, there was no way out. It was impossible to run or hide from the shells that rained down. We survived by diving for cover under our friends.
After the attacks, my class had to dispose of the corpses. It was the first time in my life I’d seen so many dead bodies. As I lifted severed arms and legs, I had a fundamental awakening … everything we’d been taught in school about how Japan was fighting the war to win world peace, was a pack of lies. Adults could not be trusted.”
The characters are all very well developed. The movie really makes you care for the students right before they kill them off one by one. It’s a very sad movie in this regard. Seeing students forced to kill of their best friends and lovers one after another makes for a very intriguing movie, though. With 44 students, it is impossible to make a cohesive strategy. Some refuse to fight, some want to fight, and the rest are just trying to survive.
To make things more interesting, each student is given a unique weapon. The weapons range from pot lids and binoculars to machine guns and machetes. Some are luckier than others.
Like I said earlier: the concept is utterly implausible… but being as this film is so well made… I can suspend my belief in the story for as long as I need to enjoy the movie.
With that being said, what’s wrong with Battle Royale? I have one minor complaint: I think they abused the “secret lover” concept. That is to say, it seemed that all of the students had secret crushes within the class and usually ended up dying by the ones they loved. It was heart breaking the first few times, but I think it happened at least five or six times. If you can’t take blood or don’t like tragedy, I’d probably stay clear of this movie. But, I’m a fan of both.Contrary to popular belief, this film’s distribution isn’t banned in America. Although not widely available, you can still get it if you look around a bit. If you can’t be troubled to look for it, you can wait for the Hollywood version which is currently being made. I of course can’t vouch for this in-progress film. I don’t have much faith that Hollywood will make a true adaptation, but who knows?