by Del Harvey
From the director of Ringu comes a film as shockingly original and thrilling as Memento or Rashomon.
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Ringu is the original version of the popular U.S. remake, The Ring. Hideo Nakata directed the original, and I felt it was much better than the remake, which was acclaimed by critics and a box-office hit. With Ringu, Nakata showed a particular talent for infusing terror and humor into contemporary myth. The year after that film was made, he made Chaos.
Chaos is a far different film in many ways, but also as unusual and offbeat as Ringu. It is reminiscent of Rashomon and Memento in the way it jumps out of sequence in storytelling methodology. Its characters are something other than they appear. And the climax is replete with unforeseen surprise. Like Ringu and the other films, none of this detracts from the story itself or the viewing experience. However, in Chaos, the ending easily divides audiences; always a danger when attempting any sort of daring in filmmaking.
Chaos is an intricate thriller which begins with the disappearance of a Japanese bank president’s wife. But the puzzle begins almost immediately, as businessman, kidnapper, and victim are revealed as having ulterior motives, alternate agendas, and divergent goals. The story is not hard to follow, but it will keep you guessing. The ending shows a variant in cultures, as Japan’s is far different than ours. But this also does little to lessen the ultimate enjoyment of the film.
The key here is that Chaos, like Ringu, has not been created simply for shock value. Nakata’s talent is in creating films which convey the unusual and bizarre in life through the simple, day-to-day events of the normal; sometimes things happen which have no explanation and we see a fragmented and disjointed view of the world which makes us uncomfortable. We don’t like to be made uncomfortable. But watching it happen to someone else intrigues us.
There are semblances of Hitchcock and other directors here; but Nakata’s artistic hand is clearly the predominant style. A Hollywood film company is already at work on remaking the film; but having seen the watering down of numerous remakes (Insomnia, The Vanishing, etc.), I heartily recommend viewing the original.
Del Harvey is a writer and the founder of Film Monthly, a devout Chicago Bears fan, loves Grant Park in any season, and recently taught screenwriting at Columbia College Chicago.
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