Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Shinya Tsukamoto's Haze (2005)

Note: The following was originally posted on Myspace. I am reposting it here for archival purposes. It has been backdated to the date of its original posting.

Spoiler Warning! This is a discussion of how to interpret this film, and not a review. As such, it contains massive spoilers. For a brief description of the movie, I recommend this review written by Leo Goldsmith at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Since Haze is the kind of film that makes absolutely no sense at all, and since I had a revelation that's got me thinking I actually understand what in blazes the film was about, I'm gonna explain it.

This film is about a couple - a young man and woman. They are dissatisfied with their lives and the world they live in and they want to 'escape', i.e. kill themselves. So they decide upon a ritualistic double-suicide. Using a rather large kitchen knife, they begin the process with a stab in the stomach. But at this moment, they are both transported (assumingly only psychologically) into a dungeon of hell. Their memories are erased and they have no idea where they are, how they got there, or even who they are.

This is where the film begins. They start out separated from each other, but after crawling through the hellish dungeon they eventually find each other and have brief glimpses of the past as their memories begin to return. They obviously want to escape the dungeon, but they also have a feeling that wherever they came from, they didn't want to be there either (since they were trying to kill themselves). The woman remembers that she was imprisoned before she was able to escape (i.e., she found herself in this mental dungeon before she could finish the act of killing herself). The two of them decide to try to escape the dungeon, and finally they do.

At this point, they find themselves back where they were just before they were 'thrown' into the hellish dungeon of their minds - that is, they are both lying on the floor bleeding. But now, after having crawled through that horrible dungeon, they have been instilled with a newfound will to live (like that one victim in Saw), so instead of finishing the suicide, the man grabs the phone and calls for help.

They both survive and grow old, as the next to final scene shows the man aged and a picture of the woman aged. The man walks out onto the roof and is mesmerized by the bright sunlight shining off of the white sheets on the clothesline, rippling in the wind - this is an example of how the man had been given an appreciation for the small wonders in life after his mental ordeal of crawling through hell.

The final scene is the fireworks scene. This is when the man and woman were younger, and it happened before the attempted suicide. I believe the significance of this scene is just that despite the couple's dissatisfaction with life and desire to kill themselves, they enjoyed sitting together watching the fireworks, and it is the realization of this fact that helps the man and perhaps too the woman gain a newfound appreciation for life during their dungeon travail.

Why fireworks? Well, I figure the best reason is because when the man mentions fireworks while he's in the dungeon, it makes you think of bombs and war, which just encourages the wrong understanding of the plot and keeps you guessing about what's really going on (since neither you nor the characters themselves have any idea how they got into the dungeon until things clear up [though not really] at the end).

And so there it is. It makes a lot of sense to me, and as far as I can remember, all the pieces fit into place pretty well with this explanation in mind. Let me know if you have any questions or notice any discrepancies, or if you have an altogether different interpretation of the film - I'd love to hear it!

P.S. Oh yeah, and as for the shimmering koi pond images, I assume that's just an example of how the man is slowly becoming aware of the simple brilliance of life. He's remembering watching a koi pond and reflecting on how beautiful it is, as a kind of contrast to the dark torment he is experiencing.

P.P.S. Frankly, I think this particular interpretation transforms this film from 'disturbing' to 'enchanting'. Should a film require this much afterthought in order to fully appreciate? I'm not sure...