opens to an apparently familiar pattern of an overworked, rumpled,
and unfocused officer named Goro Yabuike (Koji Yakusho) napping on
an empty bench at police headquarters and being awakened by a superior
officer to discuss the progress of his arrest case. One day, he is
called to an abandoned house in the countryside in order to diffuse
a hostage situation involving a prominent parliamentary official.
As Yabuike enters the room, a lone, apprehensive gunman hands him
a scrap of paper with a single demand to "restore the rules of
the world", before fumbling and dropping his gun on the floor.
Yabuike instinctively draws his weapon and aims at the now unarmed
suspect, but decides not to shoot and instead, retreats to deliver
the cryptic and unrealistic demand. The hesitation would prove costly,
as the gunman impulsively kills the official without warning, and
the police immediately retaliate and open fire. When asked about his
missed opportunity to shoot, Yabuike responds "I thought at the
time that they both deserved help." Placed on suspended duty
for the botched hostage rescue, the aimless and guilt-ridden Yabuike
is left on a stretch of road by a remote, barren forest populated
by carcinogenic plants, polluted streams, and sickly, collapsing trees.
He encounters a team of forest rangers headed by a radical named Kirayama
(Hiroyuki Ikeuchi) who brings him to an open field in order to take
photographs of an unusual, forbidding, and oddly decorated tree, before
being chased away by the tree's eccentric caretaker, Nakasone (Ren
Osugi). Yabuike learns that Nakasone resides in an abandoned sanitarium
where he has assumed guardianship for the tree, called Charisma, since
the facility director's passing three years earlier, and has been
Charisma's sole protector against opportunistic poachers like Kirayama
who attempt to profit from its rarity. However, Yabuike soon learns
that Charisma's rarity may come at an ecological price when a botanist
named Jinbo (Jun Fubuki) argues that the roots of the tree expel a
toxic substance, and must be destroyed in order to restore the natural
balance. As Kirayama, Nakasone, and Jinbo wage a selfish and increasingly
destructive feud over the fate of Charisma, can Yabuike find a mutual
solution for the coexistence of the strange tree and the viability
of the forest?
Kiyoshi Kurosawa presents a visually compelling, multi-layered, and
insightful film on radicalism, individuality, and balance in Charisma.
Evoking the austere landscapes of Andrei
Tarkovsky, Kurosawa similarly explores issues of conscience, spiritual
longing, and personal disharmony through the manifestation of a metaphoric
environmental malady. Using foggy, pale, and muted colors of the barren
wilderness, decaying interiors to reflect psychological distress,
and medium and long shots that frame each character in proper relation
to his environment, Kurosawa raises contemporary issues on the value
and quality of life in an increasingly polarized and uncompromising
world, the dilemma between individual rights and social order, and
the laws of natural selection versus human intervention against extinction.
Inevitably, as the conflicting ideologies struggle between natural
and created order, what emerges is an oppressive, alienating, and
ominous wasteland of irreconcilable and consuming intolerance.
© Acquarello 2002. All rights reserved.
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