Feature – Japan / UK Première
Gakuryu Ishii / Japan / 2011 / 113 min
Although influenced by apocalyptic seventies Sci-Fi, Gakuryu Ishii’s transcends his predecessors by treating his characters not as visual aids for a lecture, but as scared, confused people trying to cope with a terrifying and unfathomable event: one by one, his university students begin to drop down dead. Another director might have taken the horror route, with our plucky teens tracking down the evil genius or government lab behind the mysterious deaths – but that’s not Ishii’s concern. Instead, they simply wander the paths and corridors of the campus waiting to die, but hoping to live.
It might seem ironic, but life is what this film is about. The characters’ indecisiveness at the beginning of the film, with so many choices and so much time ahead of them, is made to seem ridiculous by the immediacy of their deaths; and there’s clear implication that every diem should be carpe’d. Ishii handles the mix of poignancy and black comedy with style and any attempts at philosophising are stopped by the dull thud of another body falling, refreshingly never allowing any characters a blinding flash of wisdom. With an astonishing final scene and a satisfying lack of cliché throughout, Isn’t Anyone Alive? is the most death heavy, life affirming film you’re likely to see all festival.