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In The Films in Our Lives on August 23, 2009 at 9:02 pm


Maybe the thing about Japanese Horror films (J-Horror, as its also referred to) is that its ghosts don’t really do anything. Which is a little untrue, they don’t physically do anything. Emotionally they kill.

And I’d argue that if you we’re faced with a ghost, one that is drawn to you because you are alive and it is not, that’d emotionally scar.

Pulse, the 2001 film from Kiyoshi Kurosawa, is an example of this phenomena. Without getting into to much on this film, mostly because Scott Tobias over at The Onion’s AV Club does an excellent job talking about the film, so let me briefly say that the thought of life after death being a drag, full of monotony and disillusionment is horrifying.

The impact of Pulse comes from its use of plain long shots to unnerve. The longer the take, the more the action takes place in a shocking place on the screen, the more unsettling the film becomes.

Kurosawa (not related) uses his framing, editing and actor positioning to an uncommon effect. It could not be any more different than the flash cutting of American versions of the J-Horror movement. There is a long sequence near the end of the film between a ghost and a human. There is no inter-cutting between the ghost and the human. The ghost, slightly blurred, moves towards the human. The human trips, and continues to look at the ghost. (If you thought death was walking up to you, how would you react?) The ghost moves towards him. The ghosts comes into focus. And what a focus pull. The scariest focus pull I’ve ever seen.

But it isn’t all focus. It’s also in the fact that the ghost moves towards the human from one part of the frame to another. That the minimal cuts are deliberate. The emphasize the presence and physicality of the ghost. They make the ghost real.

There is one other question I’d like to address about the film:

Why the humans die after seeing the ghosts? It’s not as if the ghost’s physically harm the people them meet. They seem to just imprint them with the a feeling of uselessness. A feeling that life after death is tedious. And while that might seem odd that the humans die after being exposed to this, instead of trying to live even happier lives, which is what each of us hope to do, dread and sorrow are powerful emotions.

It can effects the spirit.

And quite literally, ghosts are spirits.

So, if our spirits have no hope, what’s the point?


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