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Hirokazu Kore-eda explores different versions of a truth in Monster

The Japanese drama won the Queer Palm as well as the Best Screenplay awards at the 76th Cannes Film Festival

Agnivo Niyogi Calcutta Published 09.12.23, 12:47 PM
Hinata Hiiragi and Soya Kurokawa in Monster

Hinata Hiiragi and Soya Kurokawa in Monster IMDB

Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Monster, recently screened in the Cinema International section at the 29th KIFF, is an insightful exploration of the themes of bullying, homophobia and the destructive influence of social media rumours.

Kore-eda is known for films like Broker and Shoplifters. Monster won him the Queer Palm while Yuji Sakamoto won the Best Screenplay award for the film at the 76th Cannes Film Festival.

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Divided in three chapters, Monster ter revolves around the lives of three interconnected characters — a young boy, his single mother, and a schoolteacher — in present-day Japan. Minato (Soya Kurokawa) is a sensitive fifth-grader whose subtle behavioural changes — such as a new haircut and staying aloof — raise concerns for his vigilant single mother, Saori (Sakura Ando).

Saori becomes increasingly suspicious and questions Minato until he confesses to having been physically assaulted by his homeroom teacher, Mr Hori (Eita Nagayama). Convinced by the evidence she has gathered, Saori decides to confront Hori, and her suspicions seem validated by the insincere apologies that he and the reserved school principal Makiko Fushimi (Yuko Tanaka) offer.

At this juncture, the story shifts its focus to Hori’s perspective. As anticipated, Minato hasn't disclosed the entire truth to his mother. The involvement of school bullies and Minato’s timid classmate Yori Hoshikawa (Hinata Hiiragi) make the situation more complex. The apparent indifference of the principal and Hori’s defensiveness hint at something more than meets the eye.

The third chapter lets us in on the real issues behind this situation —- the close friendship between Minato and Yori who live in a semi-private fantasy world of their own —- and exposes the impact that societal biases have on individuals, particularly children, and how adults grapple with their own demons in the process.

The film has a narrative complexity that keeps viewers on the edge through flashbacks and point-of-view shifts, catching the classroom events from different angles. Kore-eda provokes his audience to question the reliability of perspectives while acknowledging the potential for spite, violence and self-harm within the characters.

The performances along with Ryuichi Sakamoto's evocative background score go a long way in shaping this experience.

Monster will be screened again at Radha Studio on December 10 at 4pm as part of the 29th Kolkata International Film Festival.

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