Magazine article Screen International

'Wilderness': Busan Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Wilderness': Busan Review

Article excerpt

Two men drawn to boxing for very different reasons forge a firm friendship


Dir: Yoshiyuki Kishi. Japan. 2017. 305 mins

“Life is boring if you don’t fight your destiny, “ is one of the more memorable lines in Yoshiyuki Kishi’s adaptation of Shuji Terayama’s 1966 novel Aa, Koya (Ah, Wilderness). Set in the Shinjuku ward of Tokyo in 2021, Wilderness revolves around characters struggling against the crippling legacy of absent fathers, broken homes and disasters both natural and man-made.

The film rests heavily on the central performances

The daunting five hour running time and slightly old-fashioned attitudes will deter many from this absorbing, wide-ranging drama, although the film will be released in a more manageable two parts in Japan in October.

On one level, Wilderness an ode to male friendship and the way boxing becomes a means of self-expression for men unable to find other ways of articulating their vulnerabilities.The focus throughout is on the very contrasting personalities of Shinji (Masaki Suda) and Kenji ( Ik-June Yang). Shinji is fresh out of juvenile detention and filled with anger over a violent attack by Yuji (Yuki Yamada) that left one of his closest friends in a wheelchair. Kenji is a stuttering, mild-mannered hairdresser who has never found the courage to stand up to his vicious bully of a father.

Both men are drawn towards the Ocean Boxing Club and the chance to ultimately turn professional. Shinji sees it as a legitimate means to exact his public revenge on boxer Yuji, while Kenji views it is an opportunity to build his confidence and self-esteem. The first half of the film has all the usual sparring, skipping and training sessions interspersed with flashbacks that tell of the childhood traumas that haunt the two men and Yoshiko (Akari Kinoshita), the woman who becomes Shinji’s girlfriend. …

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