Film School: Shonen

4504C599-D069-4A14-A684-86FC6D8F7E92.jpgThis week’s film is a Japanese one called Shonen, which translated into French means ‘garçon’. It’s about a boy who’s parents get him to fake accidents with cars in order to win compensation. Based on a true story, the family goes from city to city defrauding innocent drivers – playing on their guilt for hitting a helpless child.

It’s shot in quite a unique way: the camera rarely moves in a scene, giving a feeling of uneasy separation from the characters it portrays. We discussed at film class this might be because normally it’s very easy to sympathise with child characters in movies, and by giving the viewer this ‘distance’ it allows them to genuinely bond with the boy as oppose to a more instant, superficial connection.

The ‘boy’ in question is literally called that by his parents, giving you a sense of the relationship between him and his father/step-mother. Despite this mistreatment, he always plays his fraudulent role exceedingly well, faking injuries, pain and anger with seemingly little or no effort. One of the movie’s strengths is showing the viewer how quickly children pick up the habits and morality of their parents.

65F8AA7A-A892-48B4-A93F-11C35D4F0DD4.jpgWhere as a lot of movies nowadays show cruelty by children as a result of a broken society (City of God, Let The Right One In, etc.), Shonen has a much more simple explanation for its lead character’s lack of morality, and one that is much easier to understand and empathise with. It’s his parent’s fault.

The end of the movie gives the boy some hope as events allow him to see the impact of what he’s doing, and force him to reconsider the life he and his parents have been living for such a long time. This kind of thinking gives the character a maturity beyond his years, and despite the overall bleakness of the movie, we are left with hope that the main character may not repeat the mistakes of his parents in the future.

Shonen is not available on DVD. However, you can read a list of director Nagisa Ôshima’s other films on DVD here: http://www.lovefilm.com/browse/contributor/96561/Nagisa_Oshima.html . Certainly “Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence”, starring none other than David Bowie must be worth a look…

Next week I’ll be watching a French movie directed by Jean Luc Goddard: Slow Motion

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