In the Tiger Award Competition of this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam, one of the 3 winners, which also includes Lee Seo-Jin’s debut film Han Gong-Ju, was director Akira Ikeda’s Anatomy of a Paper clip. In a film that the jury described as an observation of absurd human behavior in a poetic fashion, Ikeda introduces his audience to Kogure, a man who slaves his days away as a paper clip bender in a local factory. His boss is mean, his co-workers are feeling just as lifeless as he does, and his daily life consists of repetitions of the day before.
Like the jury mentioned about the film, director Ikeda took the decision to tell his story in a poetic fashion. It turns the film into true “art house cinema”, where a lot is left to one’s interpretation. The strange characters feel kind of robotic in their way of acting. From the two demanding criminals to his passive co-workers, from the two total strangers suddenly moving in his room to the main character himself: the characters are drenched in a strange vibe of surrealism and this is an atmosphere that carries throughout the entire film.
If you like slow moving art house films then this film is right up your alley. If not, the 90 minutes the film takes is gonna be a long ride. The film is filled with very dry, sometimes slow, humor. This gives a certain charm to the film, but it probably won’t amuse everyone. It is a grown-up fairy tale which contains strange encounters and elements that remember of real life occurrences. Tomomatsu Sakae portrays the main character with a certain sadness and you can’t help but hope he is able to escape his dreadful daily life that is slowly eating away at him.
Sometimes balancing on the border of fantasy, Anatomy of a Paper Clip is a film experience that will likely divide its audience into lovers and dislikers. For some it will be too slow and the humor too dry, others will find this pace and humor strengthening the vibe it wants to give. Ikeda’s film certainly is an interesting tale dealing with strange human behavior in a world of paper clip benders, magical butterflies and deadly juice. It just isn’t meant for everyone.