EIFF 2012: Isn't Anyone Alive? (Ikiteru mono inai no ka)
Whoever thought that the end of the world could be so much fun? As apocalypse approaches, the birds fall from the sky, teenage angst is consumed by death, and I sat chuckling. The premise here is absolutely absurd. On a Japanese college campus a collection of students go about their daily business and one by one are inexplicably struck down dead. This is sharp satire on the human condition. Etiquette trumps survival; image is valued over life. Like an accident victim stressing over their dirty underwear, these pretty teens although facing catastrophe care only for their selfish everyday issues, the ridiculous minutiae of their lives. A pop idol on the edge of death still proudly basks in his fame while a sobbing girl takes his picture on a phone instead of dialing for help. Mortality is farcical, comedic. A lovelorn doctor's romantic song plays as a hilarious soundtrack to one character's undignified end.
The dialogue here is deliciously ridiculous. There is a wonderfully surreal argument between a girl who seeks solitude and a lonely boy who wants anything but. They compromise on a 40ft gap between them. Taken from Shiro Maeda’s play this feels stagey at times, as many adaptations unfortunately do. It could also have been tighter, but narrative is not so important here, this is all about the moments. [Alan Bett]