SYNOPSIS: In his twentieth film, acclaimed horror director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Cure, Pulse) reinvents the alien movie as a unique and profoundly human tale of love and mystery. Three aliens travel to Earth on a reconnaissance mission in preparation for a mass invasion. Having taken possession of human bodies, the visitors rob the hosts of their essence – good, evil, property, family, belonging – leaving only hollow shells, which are all but unrecognizable to their loved ones. Equally hilarious, thrilling, and profound, BEFORE WE VANISH reminds audiences of the continued strength of one of Japanese cinema’s most unique auteurs – and the value of the human spirit.
Gorgeously directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Before We Vanish feels like a graceful version of Invasion of The Body Snatchers. It is beautiful, scary, funny, and heartfelt. Moreover, it shares powerful messages on how humanity’s conceptions of itself both deter and further it as a species.
It is humanity’s possessiveness that causes war, but it is humanity’s generosity that sparks peace. This is a core message throughout Before We Vanish as an “alien race” invades the body of three human beings, whose family/ “guides” cannot understand their devoid of emotions. Like in most “alien” films, it is up to humanity to teach these “outsiders” how to feel. It is in this notion that Before We Vanish rises as something beyond “horror film” to social commentary.
Is humanity its feelings? Is an individual based in his or her conception? Hmmm….. These are some really deep questions, of which each viewer will walk away with a different verdict based on the pairs of Masami Nagasawa as Narumi Kase with Ryûhei Matsuda as Shinji Kase and Hiroki Hasegawa as Sakurai and Mahiro Takasugi as Amano. The latter pair bring a light-heartedness to the screen; Amano being a young, teenager possessed by an alien eager and easily adapting to humanity, while Sakurai is the journalist whom is consistently shocked that Amano is TRULY an alien. They are a dynamic pair growing into a brotherly tenderness that leaves you torn. On one hand, this IS an alien invasion, and Amano makes it clear; they are coming to take over the human race. Yet, on the other hand, they do wish to learn and experience what it is to be human. Enter Narumi and Shinji to prove that in learning about others, we could grow to respect and love them.
The marvel of Matsda’s Shinji is that he steals people’s conceptions of things such as work, family, and property but cannot steal the concept of love. All he does is ask someone to envision “fun” in their head and, “poof”, he has stolen your concept of fun, and you walk around empty/ no fun because of it. Yet, love is the one thing that no one can seem to envision, but all have a concept or feeling about it. Seeing Nagasawa’s Narumi as noble, sweet working woman trying to balance her dreams with the strange, decline of her husband is both hilarious and sad. The couple have a sincere chemistry that helps you understand their motivations, and makes you feel that you would act as frazzled and determined as they are to make things work.
When you marry someone, it is for better or worse; even if that worse is becoming an unsentimental alien. Before We Vanish gets oddly romantic as you see Narumi and Shinji try to discover love, and, instead, gain the concepts of loyalty, protectiveness, forgiveness, desire, and trust. It is in seeing this that you witness of every emotion/ perception you can gain, love is the one that embodies everything. What a wonderful idea from a film that is both wonderful and terrifying. If you ask me the best films are the ones that, like love, go beyond their initial concept to become everything. Before We Vanish Come To Theatres/ On Demand on February 2.