This week our writers delve deep into the brutal fight for survival in their exploration of Kinji Fukasaka's Japanese teen-horror BATTLE ROYALE (2000).
TEEN QUEENS AND WANNABES
While "Teen Queens and Wannabes" may not be expected when reading an article about the Japanese dystopian horror BATTLE ROYALE (Kinji Fukasaku 2000), the name of Rosalind Wiseman’s 2002 self-help book, which was adapted by Tina Fey to create the satirical teen comedy MEAN GIRLS (Mark Waters 2004), serves as an apt comparison. Both films comment on the hierarchical social structure of high school. While MEAN GIRLS illustrates the social order with Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) imagining the girls who emotionally manipulate each other as wild animals in the African plains, BATTLE ROYALE demonstrates it with a literal fight to the death.
One clear parallel that can be drawn is in the BATTLE ROYALE character Mitsuko (Kou Shibasaki) and MEAN GIRLS antagonist Regina (Rachel McAdams). Cold, manipulative and dangerous, both girls lack true friends and distance themselves as a means of self-preservation. While Regina has untreated anger management issues and has trouble coping with her parents fighting, Mitsuko killed a man who paid to have sex with her at a young age and has had to live with the trauma from this experience. Both characters exercise their power over other students as a coping mechanism, so that they can have control over something in their lives.
Noriko Nakagawa (Aki Maeda) is bullied by a group of girls in her school, who lock her in a bathroom stall that has defamatory graffiti written about her on the wall. She is devastated when her friend Megumi (Sayaka Ikeda) is murdered by Mitsuko, leaving her without a female friendship, a bond that is crucial to growing young women. This is the opposite to Cady’s journey in MEAN GIRLS, where she becomes one of the bullies and uses her popularity to overthrow Regina. When the North Shore High School students discover that she was involved in writing hate messages in a Burn Book and stage a revolt, she is ostracised and hides from everybody in a bathroom cubicle to eat her lunch.
Both films highlight the need for young people to develop healthy social relationships with their peers, as well as the psychologically damaging consequences of bullying and isolation, and they act as cautionary tales against fighting with classmates. Adolescence is difficult enough without starting wars, whether literal or figurative.
Every day this week a different writer will provide their perspective on our MUBIVIEWS film and each post will be open to comments from our readers. Watch BATTLE ROYALE on mubi.com until 30 May 2017 and join the discussion!
One MUBI film, five perspectives, endless possibilities.