Saturday, May 29, 2010

In short: Den-Sen (2004)

A mysterious DVD is sent to a very small (three people) content provider for cable TV. The sender is the sister of a young man who committed suicide after watching the contents of the DVD. She is convinced that the disc has something to do with her brother's death, and well, it's cover purports that it is suicide-inducing.

The production company usually doesn't do segments of the supernatural panic type, but their boss thinks it's a nice idea to give the thing to his young, female assistant director so she can make a training segment about it on her own.

Of course, the poor girl watches the DVD and of course she commits suicide directly after.

The two surviving members of the team are plagued by a guilty conscience and begin to investigate the DVD. They recruit the original sender of the DVD for the project, but their early investigations seem to lead nowhere. So of course they decide to watch the DVD. But, strangely, nothing happens to them. Turns out that the DVD doesn't contain much more than a warning and a long-ish shot of a non-descript building, filmed from the roof of another building. Nothing to worry about, it seems.

Not willing to give up, the trio decides to find the building the movie was shot on. This leads them a bit further, to rumours about a company that might just be a religious cult and might just have something to do with the strangeness surrounding the case.

I would have expected Shozin Fukui's first film project after eight years to be a wee bit more exciting/excited and a lot weirder than Den-Sen turned out to be. Fukui is, after all, the director of the two classics of Japanese weirdo cinema, 964 Pinocchio and Rubber's Lover, both films as peculiar as they come.

Den-Sen, shot on digital with the conceit of it being a fake (and cheap and somewhat desperate) documentary, and its non-ironic use of a bunch of utterly traditional elements of Japanese horror post-Ringu is - apart from its noise/electronica soundtrack - like something made by a completely different director. There's a sense of banality about the proceedings on screen, a feeling that is increased by the film's very slow tempo (again, the direct opposite of Fukui's other films) and the sparseness of what happens on screen. It's even sparse compared to other fake documentaries without an effects budget.

I can't help but think that this is a conscious decision, that Fukui was trying to make a film that is banal and basic and possibly boring. That's of course only a feeling I get watching the film and not anything I'd want to find arguments for. If it is as I think, then Fukui didn't succeed completely in his efforts, for Den-Sen features some strangely disquieting moments, moments exclusively based on letting the viewer wait for something to happen just a bit longer than she is comfortable with, on letting her watch the same people watch something she can't see and describing the same thing they did already describe three times before, until she can't be sure anymore the people aren't lying about what they see.

That I find this aspect of the film exciting rather than boring might of course just be an effect of my excitable nature.



Tower Farm said...

Wow...judging from your plot synopsis...sounds like this movie has been made a million times before. "Banal" pretty much says it all.

houseinrlyeh said...

Yeah, well, at least it's short.