Aokigahara / 青木が原
The famous forest at the northwest base of Mount Fuji that’s suicide central for an increasing number of Japanese lends its name to Taku Shinju’s Aokigahara. Penned by soon to be ex-Tokyo governor, Shintaro Ishihara, the whole project should have been left in novel form, rather than committed to the screen. Under Taku Shinju’s flaccid direction the actually fairly straightforward ghost story is forced into a numbing series of flashbacks and flash-forwards that only serve to provide unnecessary tedium and a failed attempt to add mystery to the whole megillah. You may know this story. A ghost comes back to the land of the living to get help to free the soul of his dead lover so they can finally cross in peace to the other side. There isn’t a scene in the film that isn’t telegraphed until the final sequence when our living hero gets a glimpse of the afterlife. The otherwise dark and gloomy wintery mise-en-scene becomes a sunset-lit vision, throwing the whole thing into the realm of camp far too late.
Originally published in EL Magazine, January 2013.