A police officer, Goro Yabuike (Kouji Yakusho), is forced to go on vacation and he travels to a remote place in the country.  There he finds the inhabitants obsessed about an unusual tree.  Yabuike must take a side in the conflict and choose a philosophy that he can more-or-less die for.

In short, it’s a movie about a tree.  A tree named Charisma.

I was completely misled about the film’s nature. This is not a horror movie or even a suspense film.  It’s more of a drama of ideas.  The factions have a couple of different approaches to the matter of the tree.  One group thinks the tree should be removed to another place.  One group thinks it should be destroyed.  One group thinks it should be preserved and nurtured in its environment.

The characters who act out of greed not only commit unconscionable actions but they come to bad ends.  Yabuike states several times that everything wants to survive and that’s not bad.  It’s just that both can’t survive at the same time.  It was put more elegantly in the film.

Looking at other comments and reviews about the movie, it seems some people think that the meaning behind the film is so esoteric that it must be repeatedly watched and studied to glean anything from it.  Other people assert that this is the director’s most transparent film.  The director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, in the extras interview says that there were production difficulties and he had trouble adding the human element to the issues.  I think that’s a fair estimate of the movie.

The violence in the films is very understated, even casual and I was disturbed by it.  It is also beautifully filmed – the cop at the top of the hill looking down at the tree; the reflection of the tiles in the water as they walk through the asylum; the scene in which the director’s wife talks to the cop about her caretaker; the botanist’s cozy fire in her house full of glass containers.

Worth a look but don’t be expecting a monster tree resembling Godzilla or anything like that.


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