08:46 - 10th April 2013, by Calum Waddell


Despite being surprisingly tame by the usually gruelling standards of the 'Japanese Cronenberg', Vital is a dark and disturbing work. Consequently, although the movie carries a lowly '15' certificate, this does not do justice to the actual power of the film, because this is one of the most downbeat and horrifying slices of Japanese shock in quite some time...

In short - a young student called Hiroshi (Tadanobu Asano in a whirlwind performance) loses his memory in a car wreck. Willing him back to normality, his parents inform Hiroshi that he is due to start medical school - and their son becomes intrigued by a dissection book that he finds in his bedroom. Agreeing to start classes as planned, the budding doctor partners up with a shy and reserved girl called Ikumi, who is instantly attracted to him. In class, the two are given a dead female body to dissect - at which point Hiroshi begins to dream about visits from a beautiful woman. In a remarkably grim twist, the dead body on the operating table turns out to be the poor lad's deceased girlfriend - who now appears to be contacting him from beyond the grave...

Vital is not an overly gruesome movie, nor does it need to be. Whilst the feature may be a little too subdued to appeal to the Tsukamoto fans expecting another slice of extreme cinema on a par with Tetsuo or Tokyo Fist, it is difficult to deny that this is one of the director's most beautifully photographed and realised efforts. Vital is also one of these films that might take a few days to really creep up on the viewer and make an impact. Even so, this is a mature and poetic story at heart - and one that the filmmaker has obviously put a great deal of sweat and tears into.

//DVD Extras// A welcome audio commentary from critic Tom Mes joins a making of documentary, a special effects featurette, an interview with Tsukamoto and some footage from the world premiere at the Venice Film Festival 2005.
SCORE: 4/5
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