Shinya Tsukamoto's tenth film is a beautifully simplistic, atmospheric piece of cinema that primarily deals with loss and mortality with a good helping of asphyxiation thrown into the mix.

Vital tells the tale of a man suffering from amnesia after being involved in a car accident. He rediscovers his previous interest in medicine and enrols in a course, involving human dissection. He realises that the woman's body that lies on the table before him is that of his former lover, whom he begins to meet again in his dreams.

The film is extremely well shot and pieced together. The editing is sharp and, at times, rather abrupt, keeping the viewer interested and constantly engaged throughout.

Tsukamoto's ability to shoot completely insignificant objects and from them create moods and tensions is startling. Although some scenes don't quite hit the mark, the majority work very well and create a unique, foreboding atmosphere that ties the entire piece together to make a solid visual experience.

Vital's key element is its stillness. There is very little movement and the colours are drained and dull, an alluring reflection of the rainy season and the emptiness of waking life. The mundane, often painfully drawn out scenes are starkly contrasted with the vivid, fast paced afterlife, where our narrative agent repeatedly meets up with his emotionally disturbed ex lover. These dreamlike sequences are shot at hauntingly attractive locations, surrounded by nature and constant motion.

The use of sound is enchanting and the score exactly the sort of thing you'd expect from contemporary Japanese cinema - bloody excellent and very minimal.

Vital is a well made, thought provoking journey through life and death. It is believable and beautiful, an emotionally outstanding piece of cinema.

Reviewed on: 11 Mar 2006
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A medical student reconstructs his identity after surviving a car crash.
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Anton Bitel ****1/2

Director: Shinya Tsukamoto

Writer: Shinya Tsukamoto

Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Nami Tsukamoto, Kiki, Ittoku Kishibe, Kazuyoshi Kushida, Lily, Jun Kunimura, Hana Kino, Go Rijyu

Year: 2004

Runtime: 86 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Japan


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