Monster Review: A Canvas Of Perspective And Perception

Monster Review: A Canvas Of Perspective And Perception

Inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 classic Rashomon, the screenplay of this film too tells the story from multiple perspectives

Troy RibeiroUpdated: Friday, February 09, 2024, 09:17 AM IST
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Title: Monster

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda

Cast: Sakura Ando, Eita Nagayama, Soya Kurokawa, Mitsuki Takahata, Akihiro Kakuta, Shido Nakamura, Yuko Tanaka, Hinata Hiiragi

Where: In Theatres near you

Rating: 4 stars

Set around a school and dealing with issues about truth, perspectives, and getting to the bottom of things, this film is about growing up and understanding how people deal with each other and why.

What you see and what you perceive may not be the truth of the whole story, and the director Hirokazu Koreeda, known for previously critically acclaimed films Shoplifters and The Brokers, weaves this very brilliantly.

The film begins with a building fire observed from a distance by Saori (Sakura Ando), a single mother, and her son, Minato (Soya Kurokawa).

Over the next few days, Saori notices her son exhibiting strange behaviour like- asking weird questions, inexplicably cutting his hair, and at one point, throwing himself out of her car.

On questioning Minato, Saori suspects that Mr. Hori (Eita Nagayama), his sixth-grade teacher, maybe bullying him.

As the narrative unfolds, you wonder, “Who is the monster?” despite Minato asking this question very early in the film.

When Saori takes her concerns to the school principal, Makiko Fushimi (Yuko Tanaka), and confronts Mr. Hori, everyone is overly apologetic despite showing no empathy or concern. But when Minato’s strange behaviour continues, Saori confronts Mr. Hori directly. He informs her it is Minato who is bullying another student, Yori Hoshikawa (Hinata Hiiragi).

Wanting to get to the bottom of this, Saori visits Hoshikawa’s house and learns that he, despite his strange behaviour, is fond and concerned for Minato.

Eventually, Mr. Hori is removed from his position. One stormy day, to plead his innocence, Hori lands up at Minato’s house, it is then that Saori realises Minato has gone missing, only to find him and Hoshikawa in a deserted cabin in the nearby mountain.

The fire and the stormy day bookend the events in this cinematic universe. Everything in the story happens between these two events and is used effortlessly as signposts to navigate the plot.

Inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 classic Rashomon, the screenplay of this film too tells the story from multiple perspectives. The story unravels three times. First by Saori, then from Mr. Hori's perspective, and lastly from the perspective of Minato and Hoshikawa.

How the narrative evolves is highly dependent on the point-of-view of the narrator. The entire film is like a puzzle, revealing and unravelling facts that happen and later you relate to them. It dissects; reticence shame, and desire in society, and goes about some unexpected emotional areas that one is not ready and it takes you by surprise.

Each character is well-etched, and the ensemble cast delivers a good performance that you get subsumed into their lives. In fact, the sense of discovery, especially their personal trauma, drama, and sometimes closely held beliefs and secrets, is exciting.

Written by Yuji Sakamoto, the film won the best screenplay and the Queer Palm at Cannes Film Festival 2023. Honestly, the queer component is so subtle that if you blink, you might miss it. 

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