Eye For Film >> Movies >> Heart, Beating In The Dark (2005) Film Review
Heart, Beating In The Dark
Reviewed by: Emma Slawinski
Sunichi Nagasaki’s earlier film of the same name, the grungy, experimental tale of a young couple on the run after killing their child, gets a reworking 20 years on, as fresh actors reprise the roles of the central characters with a number of twists.
Toru (Shoichi Honda) and Yuki (Noriko Eguchi) are hiding out in a flat lent to them by Toru’s ex-flame, Ritsuko (Kaori Mizushima), and over one night, holed up in a forbidding, cold and confined space, go through a rollercoaster of emotions. Haunted by their reasons for running away they act out a troubled and frequently sado-masochistic relationship. These scenes are interspersed with moments involving their counterparts in the previous film, Ringo and Inako, and their somewhat different experience of similar events and locations.
But the couple from 1995 are also part of the film: played by the same actors, Takashi Naito and Shiegeru Muroi, they are reunited after years without contact. Now middle-aged, the two have not gone far in life. Inako has never really stopped running, and has dubious motives for wanting to meet up again. Takashi has achieved a modicum of stability, but with a failed marriage under his belt, there appears to be much at stake for him in the reunion with Inako. Still, he is torn between old, bad, habits and new, more thoughtful ways. Eventually the couples will meet – but will the Ringo and Inako be able to offer anything of value to their younger selves in Toru and Yuki?
If the doubling up of narratives wasn’t enough, things are complicated further by another layer: Nagasaki opens the film with the four main actors playing themselves in the initial stages of creating the picture itself, and there are several more such intrusions, drawing attention to its artifice but also bringing a welcome comic touch to an otherwise dark and sombre film.
Yet despite its dour central storyline, the theme of infanticide remains the elephant in the room. The narrative is mostly so far removed from this most important element, which we are asked to believe essentially motivates everything that happens in the film, that it begins to feel like a gaping hole in the story.
With little backstory on the couples, suddenly and well into the film, there are two monologues by way of explanation, presented in alternating fragments, from the male characters, that set out the two relationships and their degradation to the point of the children’s deaths, in another display of filmic self-awareness.
The combination of unappealing personalities and lack of hooks to get to know the characters’ motivations better means that most of the time, watching Heart, Beating in the Dark is quite an alienating experience. It dodges moral judgment, but provides little of substance to take its place. The most successful portions are those showing the film-making process, that have a winning, mischievous humour, and create tension between the unrelenting, gritty realism of the couples’ stories and the fiction of the very same.Reviewed on: 26 Feb 2012