On a bleak Sunday morning with the wind howling around my building and rain lashing against the windows, I got under a blanket and decided to watch Isn’t Anyone Alive (生けているものはいないのか / Ikiteiru mono wa inai no ka), a film directed by Gakuryu Ishii (石井 岳龍). Gakuryu Ishii, formerly known as Sogo Ishii (石井 聰互), is usually known for making punk films but changed his name and made a come back with this bizarre offering. I’m not sure what genre Isn’t Anyone Alive really fits into – some say it’s a comedy but even at its funniest moments I wouldn’t say that.
Set on a university campus, the film begins by introducing various groups of friends and their relationships. Immediately it’s clear this isn’t going to be a normal story, as a young engaged couple sit and talk with another girl who is apparently carrying the engaged man’s child. Elsewhere on campus, students discuss the urban myths relating to the university hospital on campus, where it is said ‘immortality experiments’ have taken place in the basement.
Suddenly talk turns to the news of a major train crash on a JR line, and what follows can only be described as bizarre. One by one, all of the main characters we have just met start dying. their deaths are quite dramatic – lots of choking, coughing and shouting – and not a single person calls for help. Instead, those remaining seem resigned to the fact that some sort of virus is coming to get them and they are all going to die, and as they wander around stepping over the dead they contemplate their last words, seeming more concerned with how they are going to die than stopping it happening.
The movie is beautifully shot, with a great soundtrack, but the story is just odd. There’s no resolution at all, and I can’t see what the message is supposed to be, if there is one. I suppose there is a sense of ‘what it is to be human’ about the film (friendship, family, love, etc.), but this theme isn’t well-developed enough to make for an interesting story.
Fans of Gakuryu Ishii might have a different take on this, but I would say Isn’t Anyone Alive is not really a movie worth bothering with. Check out the trailer and see what you think…