Action / Thrillers, Drama, Films, Japan, Recommended posts, Reviews

Solomon’s Perjury Part 1: Suspicion

4 starsソロモンの偽証 前篇・事件, Solomon no Gisho Zenpen. Japan 2015. Directed by Izuru Narushima. Written by Manabe Katsuhiko (based on the book by Miyuki Miyabe). Starring: Fujino Ryoko, Itagaki Mizuki , Ishii Anna, Shimizu Hiroya, Tomita Miu, Mochizuki Ayumu, Sasaki Kuranosuke, Yutaka Matsushige. 121 mins. In Japanese with English subtitles. 2 Comments

Even as the audience you are already part of the jury…

Solomon’s Perjury: Suspicion is part one of a story based on the novelist Miyuki Miyabe’s trilogy Solomon no Gisho. Whilst these are not novels of hers I’ve read, I have read All She Was Worth – another intriguing mystery that dealt with identity, debt and the mystery of a woman who has disappeared. Like the latter novel the main story of the film is set in the early 1990’s when the Japanese financial bubble was on-going, though the location is the far more socially claustrophobic and rigid setting of a school. The themes of identity and truth are not new for the director Narushima Izuru either, whose multi award winning Rebirth (2011) also deals with judgement, perception of self and examining the past to make sense of the present, making it easy to see why this particular story would appeal to him.

The film opens with a present day preface when transfer teacher Ryoko returns to her old school in Tokyo and relates the truth of a ‘legendary story’ to the school’s current head teacher. In her second year of junior high school, early Christmas morning, she and Noda, a fellow student, set off to look after the school’s rabbits. Avoiding the main entrance, they jump a side gate and discover, buried in the snow, the body of a fellow student Kashiwagi. His shocking death is reported to the rest of the students as suicide, until an anonymous letter accuses three bullies of murdering the student. The ensuing drama takes place over the rest of the year, highlighting the layers and nuances of school life and specific relationships between friends, students and teachers. The search for the truth causes tension between students and faculty particularly when it is decided by Ryoko and two others that a trial will be held of the accused and the accuser.

The opening sequence in the present day gives us location and context, but also forewarns us. Ryoko’s approach to the school by avoiding the main gate and her entering through a CCTV monitored side gate, repeat of her steps the morning she and her schoolmate discover the body under the snow. The significance of the cherry blossom she watches fall should not be lost on the audience, its cultural significance in Buddhism relating to the transience of life, its white petals echoing the falling of snow at the discovery of the body all those years ago and perhaps too the loss of innocence that is initiated.

Narushima Izuru takes a slightly fractured approach to the narrative, small jumps in time and perspective as though Ryoko is recalling or explaining some reasoning with a memory previously missed. There is the still relevant issue of bullying in school the range of which is demonstrated from the violent to that between friends. Shame, saving face and taking responsibility for what you believe do not overpower the sense of suspicion which, as the title suggests, is rife in this section of the story. Whether it is between adults and students, the students themselves it involves you the audience, already taking front seat in the courtroom before its even formed.

Of the cast, some of the teachers such as Kitao (Matsushige Yutaka) will be recognisable to followers of Japanese cinema, but it the fresh talent of Fujino Ryoko in the lead role and the mix of experienced and novice child actors that holds the most interest. Some recruited from open audition, and then put through intensive acting workshops they maintain the tension and emotion needed for this film incredibly well. The mix of experienced adults and inexperienced children reflecting the school dynamic as some teachers battle and some guide the students. Whilst the trial itself is going to be the main act, this first film does not lack tension or interest in anyway, and you feel each scene and event is a carefully placed in front of you as evidence. Its hard to say too much without spoiling the viewing, though the month release between the two parts is one I am glad I didn’t have to experience.

Solomon’s Perjury Part 1: Suspicion screens Sunday, July 5, 3:00pm at Walter Reade Theatre, as part of the New York Asian Film Festival 2015. Solomon’s Perjury Part 2: Judgement screens Friday, July 10, 6:00pm at Silas Theatre.

About the author

Kay Hoddy
A New Zealand based Brit with a preference for horror movies, but very partial to Kim Ki Duk, Sion Sono and the ‘Young and Dangerous’ series. Loves film festivals, Korean and Japanese dramas, Korean R&B/Pop and when not watching films, works on them at Weta Digital. More »
Read all posts by Kay Hoddy

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