Ringu 1998 is arguable one of the most terrifying Japanese films of all time, and as such it is an apt case study. Like my previous posts I do have some background information and viewing of the text. In this case I have seen the American remake of Ringu, The Ring. From memory this film will have a lot to do with spirts and paranormal activity, which intern is relative to my previous posts.
The opening scene, much like my previous experiences with Japanese film, is immediately cutting to the story, there was little to no ‘padding’. The idea of not wasting time and having all scenes being very important to the polt is upheld through the first half of the film, afterwards some scenes seem drawn out and at times unnessecary. The film begins with two teenage girls discussing what happens after watching a particular film, the dialogue is presented in such a way that it seems to be a horror story, In reality it is a cheap form of foreshadowing. As the plot continues I begin to get bored. The story itself begins to become dull, as mentioned before the pacing of the film is slowed during the centre, particularly as the film uncovers the back story of Sadako through Ryuji and Rekio’s research. For me, the plot developed in the typical story arc of rising and falling action with climax being close to the conclusion, however an issue I have found with all my research into Japanese films is that the ‘arc’ is not so prominent. At times it is hard to tell if scenes were actually going anywhere, they seemed to run around in circles. Again the idea of gender roles crops up, with scenes of Rekio’s grandfather first being introduced featuring the males of the family being separate to the females. This idea of gender inequality is reinforced through various later scenes where all male characters on screen are dominant over the submissive Rekio (even her young son Yoichi to an extent). As the film is reliant on supernatural themes, and the idea is discussed throughout the majority of the film however there is very little on screen time for any supernatural themes. For the most part they are only represented in watching the ring video tape and in memories. Lastly, for me, the film did not induce any feelings of fear. I recognised that some scenes were created with the idea of inducing fear however I did not have much of a reaction.
When it comes to the pacing of the plot, I mentioned earlier that the story beings rather quickly. This itself is common in other Japanese films I have researched, however there is somewhat of a difference in Ring. The film beings to slow down only to be picked back up in the final scenes, something that is inconsistent with other Japanese films which remain relatively constant in pacing throughout. This to me separates this Japanese film from other psychological thrillers.
For me the story became dull. This is not an indication of the foreign nature of the film, nor the necessity of subtitles I have suspected as being the reason for my boredom with foreign films, it is more so the story. As I had previously seen the American remake I had an understanding of the plot and a rough idea of when and where the plot should advance. This, coupled with the slow advancement of the plot made me impatient. Congruently, I believe that my over exposure to western horror films such as Paranormal Activity, is a significant contributor to myself not finding the film by any means ‘horrifying’.
Gender, another aspect commonly upheld in Japanese cinema is again discussed. My initial thought were that it was a reflection on Japanese society, the females were submissive and the males domiant. A blog on Japan as a country reinforced my ideas stating that “Men are still generally considered the bread-winners of a family and call the shots in business, while the women stay at home and take care of the children”.
Ring has a heavy association with Japanese life and culture. As I have discussed before, spirits, ghosts and supernatural themes are common in Japanese history so it is only appropriate that they are represented significantly in Japanese media.
Conclusively, I did not really enjoy the film, for the most part this is due to my over consumption of western media influencing my preconceptions of what a horror film should be.
ushistory.org, 2014,Japanese Religion and Spirituality, Ancient Civilisations, Viewed 10th October 2014, <http://www.ushistory.org/civ/10a.asp>
Kephart, J. 2013, Gender Roles in Japanese Society, Japan A Unique Country, weblog, February 6th, viewed 17th October 2014, <http://jkephartjapan.weebly.com/blog/gender-roles-in-japanese-society>