One of the most extravagant Japanese directors is back: Sion Sono, and this time with a product produced by Netflix. His new movie is titled “The Forest of Love,” and it has no loss. Those who are assiduous Sion Sono’s fans will appreciate here many of his hallmarks and style, because “Forest of Love” is a kind of “Greatest Hits” by Sion Sono, as if “Noriko’s Dinner Table”, “Cold Fish” and “Why Don’t You Play in Hell ” were put together on a cocktail shaker and this was the result. The film is undoubtedly a crazy and frantic journey of violence that will lead all the characters to the most absolute dementia, and it is totally worth it.
On the one hand we have Mitsuko (Eri Kamataki) and Taeko (Kyoko Hinami), two friends who have known each other since high school. They both lived a traumatic experience while they went to high school with 2 more friends. Mitsuko and Taeko will make contact years later, and they will meet a group of young boys who want to make a movie. In turn, they will also meet Jo Murata (Kippei Shîna), a ruthless man who uses his charisma to manipulate people. When Murata meets Shin (one of the kids who wants to shoot a movie played by Shinnosuke Mitsushima), he decides that Murata and his turbulent relationship with Mitsuko would be the perfect theme for his film. As filming progresses, lies stop being separate from the truth and the limits of humanity are put to the test, resulting in acts as shocking as disgusting.
After a slight losing streak with films like “Tag”, “Shinjuku Swan” or “The Virgin Psychics” among others, it is appreciated that Sion Sono returns to its most depraved and sickly origins that made him a reknown storyteller. Directed with a very special care, this film reminds of its most round and successful films. The first part of the story where the high school students go to school is the most fun and interesting, until a fatal outcome occurs at the end. After that, the film becomes more comical, with a very peculiar sense of humor, until it ends in a real chaos (in a good way) full of violence and intrigue with a nice thriller touch.
Of course, if there is one thing that stands out above any other, that is the enormous performance of Kippei Shiina, giving life to Joe Murata, perhaps the greatest most charismatic manipulator that has appeared recently on screen. His performance is so eccentric, so alive and at the same time so real and fun, that one cannot avoid surrendering to it. It is simply an absolute enjoyment to see his character play with the minds and emotions of other people. You go from having fun and taking a special affection of him to wish the worst for him in a matter of seconds. The rest of the cast also fulfills their characters without any reproach, especially Kyoko Hinami as Taeko, the rebellious adolescent girl who doesn’t stop at anything.
As mentioned before, this movie is a mixture of almost everything Sion Sono has done so far. It has the spirit and the same ferocious style as his best works. The editing is frantic and alive, it does not stop at any time despite the long runtime of 2 hours and a half, which makes it ideal for the type of film it is. The soundtrack also accompanies the story wonderfully, as is usually common in a Sion Sono movie.
“The Forest of Love” is, at the end, a complex exercise on how life can change us in an instant by whom we interact with, while treating the characters’ own psychology and how far manipulation can go.
What is most surprising about the film, apart from the performance of Kippei Shiina, is the ability it has to be telling something in a fun and colorful way to suddenly go into a dark and violent path. That’s why “The Forest of Love” is a journey that will continue to be with you once it is finished.