Eli Eli Lema Sabachtani? (2005)

A viral suicide epidemic is quickly overtaking the entire world. It's called Lemming Syndrome, and the only cure is... weird, Japanoise music?

Sounds strange, but it's the stuff M. Night Shyamalan could only dream of.

“Eli Eli Lema Sabachtani?” stars the boundless Tadanobu Asano who is able to play a sadistic psycho killer in one movie and a reserved samurai in the next. The movie follows two band mates of a fictional avant-garde rock duo whose music somehow is protecting their health from some weird infection that is making everyone snap and kill themselves unexpectedly. The virus infiltrates your body and makes your brain think it needs to self-destruct. A rich dude’s granddaughter gets the virus and he finds out about the band and wants them to heal her.

All this “plot” description is really unnecessary though. It’s the atmosphere, the music, and the visuals that are what set this film apart from all the other weird movies coming out of Japan.

The mood is in constant flux - or maybe in the same sense it's always on one ambiguous note, like a Lynch film. There's really no saying. It doesn't allow you to put your finger on it. One scene feels like an old mystery film, the next is like a youtube video an experimental artist posted. How it refuses to even come close to genre distinction is part of what makes it incomparably beautiful.

The music is something I’ve been listening to on and off for a while now. In brief, it’s noise. Some musicians say the noise acts as the subconscious of society and a kind of pre-cursor to the future as a whole. Either way, it’s something you’d feel embarrassed about if anyone walked in on you intentionally listening to. In this context though, it’s more beautiful than it ever could be sitting in your basement, listening to on its own. I think this is because it’s the kind of art that requires ease in its welcoming – otherwise you’re just going to poop your pants from how terrifying it sounds. But if this film doesn’t make the noise music scene seem appealing to you, probably nothing will. It’s beautiful because you get to watch someone sit down and run a bow over a piece of metal that is somehow connected to a guitar amp through three effect pedals, producing something so manipulated yet organic - so natural yet unnatural to the human ear.

You get to see that there actually is method in their madness.

The visuals are minimal; they comfortably contrast the harsh noise and make the experience well rounded, somehow. The shots are always open, welcoming all the space that can fit within the frame. It really feels like there’s freedom in the whole film, in every way.

If the movie fails to convince you of the magic of noise, it’s the very end of the movie that should reward your patience and tolerance. The last few minutes float in utter, much-deserved silence.

It shows that my boy Frankie Valli was onto something, silence is golden, and through noise we can come to appreciate whatever silence we can get nowadays. If not to listen for the noise, listen for the silence, in that sense it’s immensely rewarding. 

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