Director: Takashi Shimizu
Screenplay (novel): Chiaki Konaka
“Marebito” is one sick film. That’s what it is: a sick mindfuck film. From what I understood, the word “marebito” means “stranger” or “creature”, but looking up on wikipedia I got to understand more about the film, as “marebito” means literally rare person/spirit, it’s a divine being in japanese culture, a god, who brought wisdom, spiritual knowledge and happiness.
So it begins with some handycam video footage and a man – Masuoka – talking in first person. He’s, in fact, the main character and through the whole movie we hear him as the voice-off narrator, letting us know his thoughts on what is happening. We see his flat, which has several screens where he sees his footage, but also at least 2 cameras to film the apartment 24/7. As he sees the footage, while taking his pills, he seems to be trying to find something. The first thing he says is that he is certain that the person (in the footage?) is a substance abuser, living in that flat with his paranoia, but he (Masuoka) is not interested in his paranoia and salvaged his soul. I think we are not sure who is he talking about here as he has taken some pills before and by the look of his apartment he’s the one who seems paranoid.
Masuoka is a cameraman and one day, after a shooting, he saw a strange incident in the subway while heading home: a middle-aged man with a terrified expression on his face, putting a knife into the eye, despite the calls from several men around him. As Masuoka seems to only live with a camera in his hands and see the world in the viewfinder, he taped the occurrence and saw it later at home. He was fascinated. He wanted to know what terrified the man before he killed himself in that bizarre way, what the man saw to leave him in that state. As he pauses and presses play again several times, there’s a point where the suicidal man looks straight into Masuoka’s lens and this is the moment when Masuoka sees it all and is compelled to get to the source of that terror. He decides the answer is underground.
As he goes outside, always with his camera, we see him dumping his pills in the garbage, stating he’s stoping the prozac (which is an anti-depressant and can also be used to treat some personality disorders). So here we have a guy who has a really bored face and wants to feel some terror and has just stopped taking his pills, this can only mean something good right? He says he must be focused to see what he wants to find, and that those people were not terrified because they saw something, but rather saw something because they were terrified (those people mean the suicidal man, I’m not sure to who else he is referring to, maybe the other persons around the man?). This is an interesting phrase and through the movie we are always getting this little pieces of information that tell us that it’s all about him! At least that’s what I think… He stopped the pills and wants to feel some kind of thrill, wants to get scared, wants to be terrified. So maybe when he gets this terrified, as he wished, will he see something? We’ll get there.
After trying to look down a bridge and find he does not feel terrified at all, he proceeds to descend into the subway. He goes to the spot where the man stabbed himself and tries to look in the direction the man was looking. In his viewfinder, we see a kind of air duct door, but when looking “normally” there’s nothing. He goes in that direction and ends up descending some stairs that lead him to some underground working facility, with pipes and that kind of stuff. But he goes further and further and ends up in a subterranean complex where he find a crazed bum who warns him about the Deros – some kind of beings who suck our blood. The strange part here is that the tramp only talks to Masuoka because he seemed to have listened his thoughts as the narrator. Although Masuoka gets a little confused with that, he does not give it much importance. He proceeds his journey through that underworld beneath Tokyo and eventually finds the suicidal man’s ghost (or is it?). The talk for a while about the Hollow Earth Theory as they walk through the tunnels. They also talk about the Deros and conclude that Richard Shaver‘s fiction was no longer fiction, the Deros were now real and one must be careful. The the ghost disappears, still questioning if Masuoka really thinks he’s a ghost, and Masuoka proceeds his adventure.
Going deeper and deeper into the ground he end up finding a young, naked, pale and chained girl. Somehow he gets to free her because now she’s at her flat! He doesn’t know what to do with her, she doesn’t eat or drink, she can’t even stand up straight. But he wants to keep her and names her F.
I interpret this descending as his own descending to his subconscious or the the depths of his mind, maybe trying to find himself or to find dome meaning to his life. He seems really bored since the beginning of the movie (I mean, look at his face!) and all those cameras and screens make me think he has some kind of problem. That and prozac of course. At first I thought he might be some kind of video maniac or even a hacker. But we see it’s not technology he wants, he wants thrill, he wants significance, he wants something more!
After all that he eventually goes to a job interview and gets to work for a TV station. He decides to buy a device to check on F while he’s out – something to see how our pets are doing without us apparently. We see all this through that freaking camera of his! Even the job interview! And one thing funny about this is that there’s this part where he’e walking through the street and the people’s faces only appear clear on his viewfinder, when looking “normally” to them they are blurred, as in a video. So is his reality only in the viewfinder? Can he not see the world clearly?
Of course he ends up being beaten by someone who does not want to be filmed by a stranger on the street… On his way back home he sees this mysterious woman. She claims Fuyumi is missing and asks if she’s with him. But apparently the man doesn’t know any Fuyumi. That’s exactly what you’re thinking: the woman tells him Fuyumi (oh look, it starts with an “F”!) is his daughter and she’s missing and she has the right to see her. He gets rid of her and as he gets home and finds F, after days of starving and sleeping most of the time (and after he receiving more or less of a threat on the phone, some time earlier, for having F in his apartment), he randomly shows her his cut on the finger. That’s right, the vampirish pretty demon starts to suck that thing like crazy. And he likes it. Its a bit terrifying and it seams something sexual, but it gets worse.
So that’s what F eats: blood. (As we suspected right?) Masuoka now starts feeding her with animal blood and meet, assuming to really treat her like a pet and adding “That’s all she should be for me. That’s all I should care for her.” Is this odd or what? Should? What, is she more that a pet to him? Does he care more for her than he should? Of course. It’s his daughter ffs…
One day Masuoka gets home to find his everything upside down and F missing. He tries to find her all day long and when the night comes he finds the man to whom the voice on the phone belongs. Although we hear him talk, them man’s lips do not move. Masuoka claims F back but the man replies he had failed and had hope he could be the one taming her… On his returning home, he finds her there. This sequence makes me think of some kind of scheme where someone managed to give him his daughter behind his wife’s back, but he failed to keep her.
One day Masuoka gets out, maybe to find some food for his pet, and that mystery woman shows up again, following him this time, determined to talk to him no matter what. Masuoka, sick of all that fuss, leads her to an alleyway and kills her, always with that same serene expression on his face. Problem solved. He then drains her blood to some plastic bags and feeds F with it. He now knows he can kill other people to keep F alive! He then phones the number who had contacted him – a public phone – and tells the person he figured out how to maintain the girl and everything is ok now, to which the voice on the other side agrees. As he hangs up and the image of the phone booth appears to us, we see there’s nobody there, as it wasn’t when the phone ranged. This man is crazy, paranoid and obsessed: he’s obsessed with F, he wouldn’t mind dying for her, but then who would look after her? And he’s obsessed with finding some thrill in his life, sacrificing the lives of people around him. He manages to murder another person and, ironically, does the news coverage of the incident with the rest of his crew the next morning. While he’s murdering his young victim, he tells us that everyone who looks terrified is beautiful, except if it’s fear of death, that’s just mediocre. So this murders don’t thrill him. He’s clearly disturbed.
So yes: the guy has his daughter trapped in his home, treating her like an animal and feeding her on blood, resembling some sado-maso relationship! Wtf!? It’s not a case where we can assume it’s all in his head because that girl really exists! The thing is: is that really Fuyumi or a Dero? If it’s Fuyumi she must have some kind of physical problem because she can’t even stand, but somehow he “teaches” her to walk and the two go shopping. There’s a shot here where she’s looking through a show window with colorful clothing and it seemed to me here that she was just a normal random girl who liked to see some clothes in the shopping mall. But it’s a quick shot, her father quickly pulls her somewhere else. Out of nowhere, Masuoka goes in a train going somewhere undefined and ends up on a quay, looking at the sea.
On this quay, as he’s looking at the sea, the image gets distorted now and again, as in a video footage. He meditates about his life, his boring life. The ghost asks him if he wants to go home and asks is he’s forgotten that they had come from the depths of the ocean, to which he responds he hasn’t. The ghost proceeds saying they were much wiser then. Masuoka asks the ghost what he saw before poking his eye and that he dies to know that terror. So the ghost replies that he does not wish for terror, he wishes for the unknown, and terror as we conceive it is just ancient wisdom sealed in our subconscious mind. “Marebito” makes sense now doesn’t it? As I said, Masuoka wants more, he can’t be bound to a simple boring life. But he went to the extreme… This quay seems a place where he can think more clearly, maybe a place in his mind when he’s resting after all those bizarre events. As I said in previous posts, water in dreams means emotion, and being on a beach means emotion vs rationality. So maybe he’s trying to figure things out and calm down, finally accepting his madness.
Back in the city again, we see him living like a homeless on the streets, where he’s finally accepted his condition: he wasn’t crazy, he wanted to be crazy in order to feel something, and because of that he killed two people and treated his daughter like a pet. But suddenly he sees two Deros in an alley and as he tries to follow them he stumbles on a ringing mobile phone just to discover his Dero was still in his house! Omg, the insanity is back! When he drops the phone we can see the image on the screen is his scared face. I don’t know what this means but maybe it’s like in the beginning, when he found out what the suicidal man saw through looking into his eyes: we then saw some images that showed later on the movie. And this image is not only the first image ever we see on the film, but also the last one. So maybe he knows the creature is still in his flat because he saw that future image (how could he see himself there if he’s outside?). If anyone understood this please explain!…
As he gets home F is there sleeping on the floor. She awakens and whippers he came back for her (yeah, she can talk and walk straight now), so he, in his disturbed mind, cuts himself, as he’s been doing the whole movie to feed her, but this time, he does it on the mouth, so she as to suck him there. She’s his daughter. Sucking him on the mouth. Yeah…
The screen gets all static and now she’s taking him downstairs to the underground again, now she is filming him, and he tells us he’s not going to say a word ever again. She takes him to the place he first found her and the two stay there, him laying on her naked lap and being filmed by her. The expression in his face is the one of terror. He finally got what he wanted. She smiles. One can think he finally is terrified because he is now fully conscious, he’s at the bottom of the underworld,
realizing what he had done to that girl. Remember when he found that man who told him he could be the one who finally tamed the girl but failed? One can think that the suicidal man from the beginning also tried to “tame” the girl but didn’t bare it couldn’t, so killed himself. (Can we even think of human traffic here?) Can we only relate this to a disturbed mind who only seek some change in his life and gets to kill people to feel something? Were the Deros real? Does he now know the unknown – the girl and the netherworld as he calls that subterranean complex – and is terrified in the way the ghost said on the quay? Help me understand this better, tell me what you think!
Update 3 hours later: upon re-reding my post and thinking about this again I came to realize that the girl was in fact a marebito – a divine being! (Note how marebito almost sounds like marvel? At least in some latin languages like spanish or portuguese, “maravilla” or “maravilha” almost resembles the same sound and mean the same as “marvel”, so we can relate that to something divine too.) She was at first chained deep in the underworld, but now she smiles at him and he, upon looking at her, unleashes his ancient wisdom that was until then sealed in his subconscious mind (as the ghost explained on the quay). Now, at the bottom level of all the staircases, underground, in the depths of his consciousness, he knows it all and he feels the terror, he knows the unknown, he knows ancient wisdom that only the marebitos can pass! Damn, I think I got this one! Do you agree with me on this?