The latest from Japan’s baron of body-horror Shinya Tsukamoto taps into a sub-trend for dramas about amnesiacs. Nothing new there, but Tsukamoto puts a kink in the plot by basing the film on a medical student, Hiroshi (Tadanobu Asano) whose girlfriend dies in the accident that robs him of his memory. When he rejoins medical school, the corpse he has to dissect has a familiar tattoo, which triggers old memories...
As squelch-tastic as it sounds, Vital is gentler than Tsukamoto’s previous outings might suggest, exploring the body as a ground on which people engage emotionally rather than a site of transformation. Expressive imagery and a restrained performance from Asano create a quiet study in loss and love in which reality and idealised memories merge persuasively. Japan’s master of metal and mangled mayhem has never seemed quite so human.
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