A violent and controversial Japanese thriller that plays on the angst and fears of adolescent growing pains in the real deadly arena of life versus death. The last release for director Kinji Fukasaku definitely pushes boundaries but it’s a story of morals and an interesting plight to follow as we see this theme of hatred between teenagers and adults manifest into one almighty killing spree creation.
A screenplay penned by the director’s son, Kenta Fukasaku opens with the creepy image of a bloodied smiling girl declared as a winner of the game. The majority of this story focuses on this brutal game with class 3B who are not on the school trip they imagined but gassed and subjected to the rules and torture of being told they have 3 days to kill their school friends and only live if they are the sole survivor. The blossoming heroes of the piece become the sweetheart pair of Shuya and Noriko who try and battle through together.
The story is a simple enough premise of containing a large number of a certain demographic and putting them through the ringer but it speaks more volumes than this when you understand the nature of adults fearing the rising trend of teenagers bucking education and fighting back against them. So too in the youngsters fearing the regimented design of adults and the wiser more worrying plans they can implement. It’s a clear divide of young vs. old but it works and plays on how innocent are children really and who can you really trust when it boils down to an extremity. I believe that this film works so well in the factor of leaving the audience to wonder how they would react and cope in the situation these Japanese school kids are thrust into. You start questioning morality and how far you would go. This is precisely what this film is commenting on, yes it is very violent but it succeeds in bringing the social context back into the minds of whoever is watching.
Character design throughout is also really basic, each 3B teen is written with one or two obvious personality traits so they become ones to root for or hope to see offed quickly. Looking past these easy written characters you can get into the unfolding action of this thriller because of the tension revolving around the central arc of Shuya and Noriko. Their narrative getting embroiled in the progression of transfer student Kawada makes for a quite unsettling feeling as you yourself fear that untrustworthy theme of who is out for themselves and whether Kawada is a man to believe in.
I like aspects of the film’s soundtrack too, especially in the more serene classical compositions that blare out over the island speakers really jarring with the body counts and bloody images. The ‘Battle Royale’ Requiem theme composed by Masamichi Amano really hits home the tense style and epic nature of this film and sets up the mood to follow with the majority of this movie. The mixture of high and low voices in the choir against the shrill notes of the orchestra does send chills into my body and makes you get into the world of this suspenseful, dark and violent world to come.
This film is still a masterpiece, banned in Germany but they’re missing out on a treat of clashes set to a thrilling score played out against an oddly beautiful backdrop for such a blooddrenched location. There may be a multitude of slayings and OTT blood spurts amongst the killing floor but it’s an exciting rush with a commentary of fear and population worries to boot. A true spectacle of a film that should really be remembered against the newer tamer grain of political views in ‘The Hunger Games.’
‘Battle Royale’ utilises on madness, violence, shock and twisted fun to keep the interest always at a peak. A fantastic treat for the senses and a film I can watch time and time again.