Drama, Films, Japan, Mystery, Recommended posts, Reviews

Red Line Crossing

After a colleague is brutally attacked by a student, a group of teachers try to track down the culprit…

Red Line Crossing (also known as Kyôshi) is a 2017 film from writer/director Shûgô Fujii, based on a play by Akio Miyazawa and on real-life events which took place at a Japanese high school. Pitched as a mystery thriller and taking place mainly in the one room, the film is a very different proposition to his more recent hysterical horror Mimicry Freaks, or his equally deranged debut A Living Hell, though is still very much in Fujii’s distinctive style, and is another exploration of the darker corners of the human psyche.

The film opens with high school principal Inada (Etsuko Tanemura) entering her office and noticing that her computer is turned on – she checks the screen, and finds a website open called ‘Japanese Schoolgirl Up-skirt Voyeur’, before the unconscious, badly beaten body of a teacher called Uenishi rolls out from under her desk, naked and tied up. Suspecting that a student is responsible, the principal agrees to let Uenishi’s colleague Mori (Daiki Tanaka) investigate, who enlists the help of former teacher Tania (Tatsuji Sugiyama), possibly to use him as a scapegoat if needed. With the students out for PE lessons, Mori and Tania take the chance to hole up in a classroom to search their bags, aided by three colleagues, despite Tania’s concerns that their actions are crossing a moral line. As their investigation seems to lead them to a problem student called Manda, the teachers’ dark secrets and motivations are revealed, and Tania’s own past trauma starts to surface.

Its opening scenes aside, Red Line Crossing is, for the most part, a classic chamber piece, Fujii setting most of the unfolding drama in the one classroom, keeping his characters confined and under surveillance as the tension escalates. As with Fujii’s horror films, which similarly tend to revolve around characters trapped in the one location, this works well, and the narrative progresses through a cleverly-structured series of revelations and power shifts as the skeletons come tumbling out of the teachers’ closest and they scramble to cover their own tracks. Unsurprisingly, this takes the film to some pretty dark places, and it has a nihilistic air throughout, with protagonist Tania clearly unstable and harbouring something unpleasant, and the other characters all being guilty of one moral transgression or another. As the title suggests, the script deals very much with the crossing of lines, both societal and moral, and the film explores this through themes of bullying and abuse, from Mori’s manipulation of Tania and the checking of the school bags, through to sexual abuse and relationships between staff and pupils. At the same time, there’s an ambiguity to the characters’ motivations, the central but mostly obscure Manda in particular, and the film blurs the line between past and present, and between the main narrative and the gradual unveiling of the truth behind Tania’s increasing derangement.

Although not a horror film as such, Red Line Crossing does have a similar look and feel to Fujii’s other works, not least since it shares many cast members with Mimicry Freaks. Parts of the film do feel like they’d be equally home in a horror, the opening scene in particular, and Fujii does throw in a few flashes of violence and gore as things build to a shocking final twist and conclusion. As with his other films, Fujii also makes use of a wide range of different visual techniques, from extreme close-ups and off-kilter angles through to sudden scenes of lurid colour saturation, employing these both to reflect Tania’s deteriorating state of mind and as a means of shifting between past and present without leaving the classroom. Impressively, Fujii manages to combine these more experimental aspects with the progression of the narrative, and though fevered and hallucinogenic in places, the film remains coherent throughout its short and fast-moving running time, perhaps more so than his wild horrors do.

As such, Red Line Crossing is perhaps a little more accessible than Fujii’s other films, and though it does deal with similar themes, is certainly less crazed and more grounded than Mimicry Freaks. This having been said, it’s still a challenging and provocative film in its own right, and is another impressive low-budget work from the director, showing a slightly different and more grounded side to his oeuvre.

Red Line Crossing is available OnDemand from SpamFlix. Join us every Thursday for the latest in James’ #cineXtremes series.

About the author

James MudgeJames Mudge James Mudge
From Glasgow but based in London, James has been writing for a variety of websites over the last decade, including BeyondHollywood in the US and YesAsia in Hong Kong. As well as running film consultancy The Next Day Agency, James is also the Festival Director of the Chinese Visual Festival in London, an annual event which showcases Chinese language cinema... More »
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