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also known as Shokuzai

Penance2012

  • 4.1
  • passes the bechdel test
Japanese master of suspense Kiyoshi Kurosawa's eerie, intense psychological thriller PENANCE unfolds on a sleepy small town playground, when a mysterious stranger approaches a group of young friends, then kidnaps and brutally murders one of the girls. Wracked with grief, the victim's unhinged mother Asako demands that the shaken survivors identify the killer or face a penance of her choosing. Growing up in the shadow of this tragic debt, each of the four girls cultivates a warped survival mechanism (avoidance, desperation, fear and obsession). A disturbing, sensitively helmed chronicle of post-traumatic stress from a female perspective, PENANCE offers Kiyoshi Kurosawa's trademark creepy twists as well as a subtle commentary on Japanese society and gender expectations. This gripping long-form serial drama highlights a new facet of renowned auteur Kurosawa and features absorbing performances from a stellar line-up of award-winning, up-and-coming young actresses.

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1 member likes this review

So I initially thought this was a 5 hour film, but as I watched it I found it heavily resembled a tv series, and now I realize it was a tv series. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed most of it, the last episode was heavily reliant on plot conveniences, but the first 4 episodes I thought were fantastic. The direction, cinematography and acting is all top notch, but as far as the visuals go, as in, the overall look of it, well, its very bland. But that doesn't matter because the focus is on the plot and the dynamics between the characters. The first 4 parts are pretty much flawless, the final part isn't as strong, and viewing this as a tv series, the "finale" should probably be better than the build up. But the individual stories surrounding some of these characters just on their own are interesting enough in their own right.

Member Reviews (3)

210916.small
top reviewer

PENANCE should perhaps be featured in Fandor's "Supervillain" series; the pitiless mother Asako wreaks far more havoc with her inability to forgive defenseless children for a "crime" they had very little to do with than the psychotic murderer of Emilie. I've watched Japanese films for over thirty years, and I don't think I'm being culturally insensitive by saying that there are major problems with plot implausibilities here; I seriously doubt any one, even impressionable Japanese elementary school students, would give their lives over to this crazed, grief-stricken witch simply because she demands voluntary compliance. However, I think PENACE is more successful if interpreted as an allegory on how we tend to become our own worst enemies through the creation of a false self, the Inner Judge. Don Miguel Ruiz, in his book "The Four Agreements," has written eloquently on this subject, of how we domesticate ourselves voluntarily out of an inability to love ourselves, and in the aggregate, this false consciousness governs the dream we all dream, the dream of our planet and humanity itself. Seen in this way, PENANCE flows seamlessly, and is a near triumph, and is a much-needed cautionary tale to remind us of the nightmares we attract when we hollow out our hearts in a demonic thirst for vengeance. 4.25 stars.

3 members like this review

So I initially thought this was a 5 hour film, but as I watched it I found it heavily resembled a tv series, and now I realize it was a tv series. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed most of it, the last episode was heavily reliant on plot conveniences, but the first 4 episodes I thought were fantastic. The direction, cinematography and acting is all top notch, but as far as the visuals go, as in, the overall look of it, well, its very bland. But that doesn't matter because the focus is on the plot and the dynamics between the characters. The first 4 parts are pretty much flawless, the final part isn't as strong, and viewing this as a tv series, the "finale" should probably be better than the build up. But the individual stories surrounding some of these characters just on their own are interesting enough in their own right.

1 member likes this review
187987.small
top reviewer

Pretty amazing accomplishment here. The was originally a t.v. show shown in five parts. It's presented here in one single film. My advice would be to watch it in two segments. That worked really well for me. The plot, and other viewer comments will tell you whether or not you'll like this. Suffice to say if you like his other work, you'll love this. Again, amazing.