Sarajevo Film Festival 2024

The unpredictability of hatred

A bitter reflection on violence, revolution and terrorism.
Director: Masao Adachi
Producer: Loft Project
Distributor:
Country: Japan

A story that starts with a suicide and ends in murder is only ever going to be a somber tale. In the hands of master veteran writer and filmmaker, 84-year-old Masao Adachi, a former member of the radical revolutionary movement of the 1970s, Japanese Red Army, it is a potent reflection on violence, revolution, and terrorism.

Revolution +1 Masao Adachi
Revolution +1, a film by Masao Adachi

A soured life

Revolution+1 is the story of Tetsuya Yamagami, the 41-year-old Japanese man who murdered former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe in July 2022 using a homemade shotgun.

There is barely anything that is classical documentary about this film, although it does meticulously document the story of the development of a festering hatred against the world by a damaged and emotionally immature man. Adachi uses a few seconds of the news footage that captured the fatal wounding of Abe as he spoke at an open-air meeting near a train station in Nara on July 8, 2022. Apart from that, the film takes viewers through a fly-on-the-wall reconstruction of how Yamagami became the first assassin in nearly a century to take the life of a Japanese prime minister.

Adachi’s research into the facts of Yamagami’s soured life offers a portrait of an individual damaged as a boy by his father’s suicide and mother’s subsequent fanatical adherence to the cult-like world of South Korea’s Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church – to which she hands over most the family’s money. With an elder brother who has lost an eye to cancer and a younger sister who does not understand why her mother never cooks hamburgers – instead expecting the children to subsist on a diet that borders on starvation – Yamagami’s sense of victimisation starts early. The director calmly takes us through a story of deep alienation. How much Yamagami’s inner world is based on research or supposition is not clear, but the fact that his father had been close friends at university with a man who subsequently becomes a member of a terrorist organisation and was involved in slaughtering 26 innocent people at Lod (now Ben Gurion) Airport in Israel in 1972, seems to have made a deep and early impression on him.

There is barely anything that is classical documentary about this film

Becoming ‘someone’ in a world where he deeply feels he is a ‘nobody’ becomes the theme of the maladjusted Yamagami’s life. A loner who makes no friends and cannot hold down a job, he lives in an inner world full of hatred and resentment. He wants to strike at the Unification Church – for which he blames all his problems after his mother bankrupts the family by acceding to increasingly swinging demands from the church – but fails to. He is rejected by the fire brigade because of his poor eyesight and humiliated when he joins a maritime defence force. He cannot even successfully commit suicide, drinking benzine before grabbing for his mobile phone when he collapses on the floor. In the hospital, a fellow survivor of a suicide attempt, an attractive young woman, tries to seduce him, but he rejects her approaches. A lonely young woman who lives next door to him tries to forge a friendship, only for him to confess to her that he is planning to kill someone. But for her silence (she is also the daughter of a strange revolutionary upbringing), his plans would have been thwarted at the stage of a festering mental sore.

Revolution +1 Masao Adachi
Revolution +1, a film by Masao Adachi

Unsettling

Adachi is at his best when he focuses on the mental, psychological, and emotional morass that makes up Yamagami. And he carefully delineates how one goes from resentment against a mother and a church to deciding that Abe’s support of the Unification Church makes him the prime target for assassination. The death, by suicide, of his equally tortured brother and a failed attempt to reconcile with his sister (who was able to complete university thanks to financial help from an uncle) push Yamagami to the culmination of a plan that has finally crystalised after years of rumination.

The assassination takes up a minute or so of Revolution+1. Perhaps too much time is spent on Yamagami’s preparations; there are several scenes of him practicing firing his weapon, including one where the ghost of his brother turns up to offer advice on how to hold the gun.

Concluding with a dreamlike sequence where Yamagami collapses in a foetal position on a grey sandy expanse, Adachi’s film offers no answers but does leave viewers deeply unsettled.

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Nick Holdsworth
Nick Holdsworthhttp://nickholdsworth.net/
Our regular critic. Journalist, writer, author. Works mostly from Central and Eastern Europe and Russia.

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