Making its way to Blu-ray, thanks to Third Window Films, and released today, Love Exposure is a 2008 release directed by Sion Sono and is probably unlike anything you’ve seen before.
The film opens with a scene of a young boy – Yu – and his mother, who is terminally ill and praying. His mother asks only that Yu finds his ‘Maria’, his one true love. Young Yu promises to do this.
Years later, Yu (Takahiro Nishijima) is a normal seventeen year old boy living with his father, who has become a priest. After his father breaks up with another woman and has his heart broken, things begin to go wrong. His father demands that Yu goes to confession on a daily basis, and is not happy until his son confesses to sins. Yu, being a young normal seventeen year old, has little to confess to. For a while he has to ‘squeeze out sins’, but this is not adequate. So, in an attempt to bond with his father, he begins to purposefully sin. Eventually, he perfects the art of ‘peek-a-panty’ photos, which has him branded as a pervert. This proves enough to truly enrage his father.
Throughout this, there is a constant countdown to ‘the miracle’, which happens almost exactly half way through the film. This is the moment that Yu meets his ‘Maria’, Yoko (Hikari Mitsushima). They fall in love instantly. The only problem is that Yu is dressed as a woman called Miss Scorpion at the time, and is completely unrecognisable.
The third strand in the film, and the one that holds most sway over the second half of the film is the story of Koike (Sakura Ando) who has been manipulating events and characters in order to bring the family into her ‘Zero Church’ cult.
Love Exposure is asking questions of love, sex and passion. There is an analysis of faith and sin, religion and identity. There is more than a touch of disillusioned and abandoned youth (which Sono would go on to look at even more in Himuzu). Gender, sexuality, broken families, parenthood also get tackled with. There is a lot going on here.
The film plays across several genres, and goes from comedy to thriller and back again. There are jokes about erections mixed in with much darker scenes. It looks great throughout, with clever lighting and some interesting shots. The soundtrack is fantastic, with use of pop and rock as well as classical pieces. These reflect characters as well as enhancing the mood or drama of scenes.
Love Exposure may not be for everyone, but for such a long film (four hours) it remains quick moving and entertaining, as well as managing to cover so many themes. I admit that at first I was worried some of the visual metaphors were far too obvious, but the film builds themes so quickly that things merge and mix like colour on an artist’s pallet, creating something entirely new. Definitely worth investing some time with.
One hour long ‘making of’ feature
Thirty-minute interview with Sion Sono
Deleted and extended scenes
Note: I saw the DVD version, not the Blu-ray.