Film Review: Excited Death (2018) by Kohei Inoue

In his directorial debut “Excited Death”, Kohei Inoue unites two stalkers – Namiko (whose name translates as “Average Child”) and Junpei Watanabe (Kensuke Tanaka) in their unrealistic attempt to win over the hearts of their unsuspecting love interests. By mixing stills and material shot on diverse locations in significantly dissimilar colour palettes as the introduction to the titular character’s self-narrated life, Inoue uses the formula of fast forwarded, repetitive images, practical in their ability to be recycled at any given moment. One can only hope that first time cinematographer Ryo Hirai will continue his path, for the job he did on “Excited Death” looks impressive.

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Eccentric humor as the leitmotif draws inspiration from predominantly American influences, be it as the parody on teenage love comedies in which a nerdy girl turns into a looker over night by disposing of her glasses, or by introducing some of the side characters in a Wes Anderson manner; the whole supermarket staff in which Namiko works is presented standing still in their bright red work uniforms, looking awkward and uncomfortable. Likewise, Anderson’s influence can be seen in Inoue’s decision to seize for multiple film formats to express different time-frames and emotional situations. The classic standards performed on the piano are an alien element used to substitute Namiko’s involvement in dialogues, as she is mostly not actively participating in any real-life conversations, with all interaction to the things said around her happening in her head.

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A transition from one daily routine to the other – this time primarily focused on stalking, is announced by a music video-like rep sequence performed by Namiko who in real life is none else that the Japanese singer/ songwriter NakanoMARU. Her songs composed for the film, melancholic tunes about the un-returned love and longing, will become the glue between the main protagonist’s inner and outer world. At the same time, they have a very strong ironic side, mocking the obsessive nature of people’s amorousness. “Excited Death” is generally carried by NakanoMARU ‘s multifaceted talent. Trivial as it sounds, it is still interesting that she is seen wearing one of the dresses from her music video “QU” in one of the film’s crucial scenes of “seduction”.

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Regarding the script written by Sasami Torikawa, stalking might be downsized to an expression of big love, a nerdy game people with deep emotions perform, but this could be attributed to the effort to create a different kind of comedy, even if Kohei Inoue should be more careful with wording in promoting the film. In his official statement, he describes stalking as “the purest of the feelings of love”, adding that “In today’s world of social media, maybe everybody is a stalker”. Actually, the film sends little poisonous arrows in right directions – Junpei is very fast unmasked as a misogynist whose idea about women is completely outdated, and he gets mocked all along the way. A bit of self-irony is found in Junpei’s background – he wants to be called Director because he’s an aspiring film student whose friends tell him that “he created a masterpiece”, a short he made for the university course. His “creative genius” or the “scripted method of breaking-up the couple” is the base of all the comical in the film.

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Regarding the love-birds Yamashita and Reina (Asuka Hanamura), they are painted in wonderfully (and deliberately so) one-dimensional pictures: as an ideal, good-natured and beautiful couple with selfless readiness to help people in need. “Excited Death” was the great winner of Moosic Lab 2019’s with three major prizes in the bag. It was awarded the Short Film Grand Prix, and MalNakano took the awards for Best Musician and Best Actress.