Stars: Rinko Kikuchi, Fumi Nakaido and Kanoko Kawagachi.
Writers: Shunichiro Miki and Yuuka Oosumi
Director: Shunichiro Miki.
SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL Screenings – Mon 11 Jun 9.00pm; Sun 17 Jun 9.30pm.
For those who crave auteuristic autonomy, unencumbered by studio constraints or concerned with audience response…well, having watched The Warped Forest, you really ought to be careful what you wish for.
Entirely self-funded, visionary Shunichiro Miki, a Japanese ad-agency legend, offers up a work of glorious, often impenetrable eccentricity, multiplied by the power of ‘huh?’ You are not likely to see a film like The Warped Forest ever again and it will depend entirely upon the individual whether that will be considered a good or a bad thing.
From what I could gather (and everything you take from this film will depend upon your viewing experience, as no website or PR campaign exists to help one interpret its oddness), The Warped Forest is about a parallel world in which our souls exists to live out our longings, fears and ambitions. It is ruled over by an enormous spinning triangle that acts as a kind of ‘Dream Central’ Overlord.
Inhabitants of this strange land are giants and/or tiny people, who co-exist so as influence each others lives. Frustrated souls indulge in ‘dream tinkering’, an ill-advised indulgence with realistic highs but terrible lows. There is also anal/vaginal fruit that grows on naked-lady trees, a penis-gun and a large pink-and-white furry ‘blob-creature’ whose uterus-like inner-sac may hold the cure to one characters outbreak of pulsating open-wounds.
Suffice to say, the chances of The Warped Forest being adopted into a lavish Broadway musical are slim. The Sydney Film Festival audience reaction ran the gamut; initially, there were lots of giggles at the gaudy visuals and amateurish acting (much feels entirely improvised), then there was some stunned silence, followed by some genuine investment in Miki’s vision and drama.
As programmer Richard Kuipers stated in his pre-screening introduction, The Warped Forest is a film that demands your attention and intellect, if only to decipher the indecipherable. The imagery is, at time, wondrous; at times, giddily naff. There is a sentimental undercurrent that keeps one engaged in the film (the soaring chords employed in the finale suggests the director is a softy at heart), but it is a purely visceral reaction. Nothing about The Warped Forest makes sense in terms of conventional emotionality.
Or does it? The film exists in a dream state, that most primeval aspect of human existence, so perhaps it is fitting that it feels both fleeting yet somehow resonant. Like our sleeping visions, it will be impossible to recapture fully upon reflection nor able to be fully understood. I guess it is best to just let it be what it is. Whatever that may be….