Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Chaos

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

CHAOS

6/10

Kaosu : Japan 1999 : NAKATA Hideo : 92 mins

Chaos finally reaches British cinemas this month, a full five years after its initial Japanese release – during which time Nakata’s Ringu and Dark Water have firmly established him as the leading ripple of what’s become known as the ‘new wave of Asian horror.’ It’s a tsunami which reached America a couple of years back: Ringu became Gore Verbinski’s The Ring, whose blockbusting success sent Hollywood studios scurrying for anything scary from Japan, Hong Kong, Korea or similar points ‘far east.’ Such as Nakata’s own Ringu followup Kaosu, whose remake is set for a mid-2005 release: Robert De Niro and Benicio Del Toro are slated for the leads, with heavyweight behind-the-camera contributions from Aussie scriptwriter Andrew Bovell (Lantana) and Brit director Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast).

It’s easy to see what has attracted such high-calibre names: this original Chaos is a teasing, elliptical thriller, with an intriguing structure and no shortage of twists and turns. The less audiences know in advance of the plot, the better: we begin in a fancy French resturant in Tokyo, where a middle-aged businessman (Mitsuishi Ken – Japanese surnames come first) dines with an attractive young woman (Nakatani Miki). A short while after, the young woman is kidnapped, and the businessman receives a hostage demand. At which point the narrative jumps back in time, and we see that the kidnapper is a handyman named Kuroda (Hagiwara Masato). But, needless to say, nothing and no-one are quite what they seem…

It isn’t spoiling anyone’s fun to state that Chaos is quite unlike anything else Nakata has done in that there’s no supernatural element to the story – though   the picture does often tiptoe into the clammily claustrophobic zones familiar from his usual ghost-story fare, and at every stage Nakata’s poised, distanced direction is loaded with unease. Then again, it’s possible to interpret the final twist to mean that one of the characters may have been rather more (or less) than totally human – it’s a climax that makes very little rational sense, and will, one suspects, have been the first aspect (wisely) discarded when Mr Bovell sat down to work.

12th October, 2004
[seen on video, Sunderland, October]

For an essay-length feature on Chaos click here

by Neil Young