This week our writers delve deep into the brutal fight for survival in their exploration of Kinji Fuasaka's Japanese teen-horror BATTLE ROYALE (2000).
AN AGE-OLD BATTLE
The young-adult dystopian movie boom of the past ten years in mainstream cinema has often followed similar tropes that have proven successful, both financially and through audience reception. Films such as THE HUNGER GAMES (Gary Ross 2012) and THE MAZE RUNNER (Wes Ball 2014) have depicted dystopian worlds where the teen heroes are the puppets and the adults are their puppet masters.
BATTLE ROYALE (Kinji Fukasaku 2000) uses a similar approach and was one of the first to do so. Following the release of THE HUNGER GAMES, the Japanese film ushered in an age of young versus old and has seen a resurgence in popularity; it was the exceedingly violent film that mainstream audiences had hoped THE HUNGER GAMES would be. BATTLE ROYALE includes metaphorical undertones of young people navigating an adult-controlled world to create a relatable, albeit excessive, version of contemporary society. Here, decisions about the future lie in the hands of adults. The young have little choice but to follow.
Part of the enduring appeal of films such as BATTLE ROYALE stems from placing young adults as the protagonists, guaranteeing a large demographic. It also represents their insecurities as children in an adult-controlled world that is presented in a highly stylised, dystopian environment created by adults. This is not too dissimilar to modern society where decisions are made by an older generation yet it is the youth who will ultimately navigate the world that has been created for them.
With rumours of censorship in various countries including the US and Canada, BATTLE ROYALE remains a relevant film from a societal perspective since its mainstream resurgence. Banned to anyone under the age of 15 after its release in Japan, the film's controversial themes and its difficulty in reaching a mainstream audience only solidify its cultural significance. Such censorship is controlled by adults; the primary demographic - young adults - suffer the consequences as a result.
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