DVD Review: Isn’t Anyone Alive? A Film By Gakuryu (Sogo) Ishii
An absurb black comedy based upon the theatre play of the same name!
“Isn’t Anyone Alive” throws the viewer straight into the farcical world of Gakuryu Ishii. Faced with mortality and impending death, we see what it is to be human, when surreal reaction, etiquette and selfishness clash with sense.
Situated on a University campus and the attached hospital, “Isn’t Anyone Alive?” begins by introducing us to the everyday lives of its many characters. An engaged couple talk child support with the girl, who the boy impregnated, a group of students discuss the urban legend that the hospital is taking part in immortality experiments, a brother attempts to reconnect with his sister after finding her working in the hospital and a man tries to help his friend recover from a train wreck. Despite the instant deaths of friends and those around them, not a single person tries to call for help or to solve the mystery behind these seemingly random deaths; instead they focus on how they want to appear in their last moments.
Firstly, let me cut to the end, a terminally ill patient, who only wants to be alone, discusses, with a boy who wanted anything but, how being the last alive in an empty world feels the same to her as being the only one to die. The film begs for more morally complex scenes like this which is beautiful offset by the soundtrack. The boy stands alone while all around him is heading to destruction. The ending is perfectly directed and leaves the audience really thinking. The main thing I was thinking was why wasn’t the rest of the film like this?
That’s not to say there are not some stand out moments of the film, split screen is well used in parts, and there are some truly memorable characters, but with a cast so large it is inevitable that some are going to get lost and could have been forgotten all together. If “Isn’t Anyone Alive?” concentrated on just a handful of characters allowing the viewer to really connect with them and actually care whether their lives ended or not, it would have been vastly improved.
The farce and absurd black comedy that the film creates, at moments, leads the viewer to laugh out loud. One character cries out in his dying seconds that he doesn’t wish to die listening to some guy’s manic love song which plays out as his dying wish, others contemplate their dying words while judging others efforts and most merely fear dying alone. While these instances make us reflect on what it is to be human, it’s not enough to carry the whole plotline.
We find ourselves intrigued by the urban myth that runs throughout the film, as you hear little hints of its truthfulness, as immortality juxtaposes the mortality of the characters. However, we are left wondering as this avenue is never properly explored.
In all, this film is definitely worth a watch if only for the beautifully stunning and intriguing ending. But, the standard that the conclusion sets, allows us to be disappointed with the rest of the film. We are left wanting more … more reflection, more intrigue, more message. We are disappointed because you can see the potential in this film, that it could be something really spectacular with just a few minor differences. Though all this doesn’t stop “Isn’t Anyone Alive?” from being a good film, but it does prevent it from being the great film it could be.
Label: Third Window Films
Release date: 8th October 2012
Running time: 113 mins
Genre: Black comedy/Drama
Director: Gakuryu (Sogo) Ishii
Review written by Georgina Young