Visual Kei at the Movies – Longinus

We’ve reached the fourth installation of this series, for the moment. I promise it will come back to it later. For now, we get to end on a higher note in 2004 with Longinus starring none other than Atsushi Sakurai of Buck-Tick.

In an unknown era, a war rages on, bleakly casting the world into despair. We focus on a military field hospital, where the only doctor has just died. A female commander brings in a wounded solider, and a long box with her small escort. The wounded solider has a large bite-like wound, and the remaining nurse does her best to treat it. An enigmatic man, not affiliated with either faction arrives and tells the unit they should kill the wounded solider, and details exactly what type of weapon they carry, the Lance of Longinus, is.

It’s a 40 minute short film, so it’s very hard for me not to just spill everything that happens. Which is compounded a bit since, arguably barely anything happens in this film. At the same time, everything you could picture with this premise happens. A few moments shoe-horned in, but hey even those were solid enough.

Longius was written and directed by Kitamura Ryuhei. Which I only bring up since he’s written and directed a slew of shorter indie projects that have a semi-cult classic following in Japan prior. A few examples being Alive (2002), and Azumi (2003). So there’s very much that charm of early 2000’s cinema present, and a lot of ‘regulars’ to Mr. Kitamura’s cinematic works. I’m not familiar with any of his other works as of writing, but if they’re anything like Longinus; I’d be interested in seeing them.

The best part about Longius is the short and succinct time frame. The story doesn’t waste time pandering to any character or location, and every bit of dialogue and action taken by any character serves a purpose in forwarding the story. It’s been awhile since I’ve watched such a tight film, so the pacing is sharp but not unreadable. Once the man of the hour, the ‘Mysterious Man’ played by Atsushi Sakurai himself, appears on screen there’s a very significant sense of time shift. It’s difficult to explain since the pace has a slowed down effect with the introduction of his character.

Speaking of which, Atsushi Sakurai does play a very somber character very well. I don’t think there was too much pressure for him to really change how he presented himself on screen, verses real life (at least at the time). However, I was impressed with his ability to keep up with the various fight choreographies he was in. I’m not saying he could have been the next action star, but he showed some promise as being a, for lack of a better word, type-casted character. I would say it’s a shame he never took another acting gig, but if Longinus is his film legacy… it’s a pretty decent one to be in.

Longius does a lot of things within the film, but oddly enough aren’t overwhelming. There’s talk of despair, the nature if miracles really can happen, and the overall theme of war and the brutality of human nature. I especially appreciated the scenes where the introduction of new ideas showed how quickly a person could change their tune in a moment of crisis. Given how short the film is, these ideas aren’t explained in depth of course. But if the time had been allotted, I definitely could have seen this project easily expanded into a full-length film.

The biggest theme of the film being the duality of the Longinus itself. I had no idea such an item existed in the bible as both a person and item. For those not in the known like myself, the Longinus is a referance to the spear that pierced Jesus’s side during the Crucifixion. I’m not going to pretend that all the information in the film was accurate, but it was concisely and respectfully presented in regards from the religion it was taken from. It certainly was an interesting idea that an item that wounded Jesus, then became an item that could harm or heal depending on the intent of the user.

There were a few tiny issues with the film. While not pitch black on black like Bride of Rose, there was a lot of scenes shot in the near dark. Luckily, there was back lighting (blues, greens, reds, etc) to set the tone without leaving us completely in the actual dark. So you can follow most of the action fairly well, and not every scene is set up exactly like you think it would be. I had a few qualms about the nurse’s design which was very… fan-service-y given she had a latex looking corset and heels, in the middle of a war. Okay then….

Returning to the good points, the commentary on true despair, verses what can be construed to be a miracle was theme that hit close to home given the climate as of late. It certainly wasn’t a perfect film, but it struck me in all the right places. I enjoyed it a lot more then I thought I would overall.

For fans of Buck-Tick a quick watch over is mandatory. Even for non-Buck-Tick fans, or non-movie people I think Longinus is worth watching. It’s a short and interesting look at the world of Japanese cinema back in the early 2000’s. I will also mention this will never get an official global release, however if you pop the title of this project, Atsushi Sakurai and eng sub into a search engine you’ll get a watchable version available to you.

As I said in the beginning, for now this is the four installment of this particular series. There are three other Visual Kei films (that I know of) starring bandmen that have been released. I even made a nifty list about them here on MyDramaList if you’re curious. I will be coming back to this series later this year to ‘finish’ it so to speak. But for now, I want to let the dust settle and work on other ideas.

If you do check out Longinus, I would love to hear your thoughts about it below. When in doubt just go listen to Buck-Tick in general since they’re amazing before, during and after Atsushi was in Longinus. If not, as always, that’s all for now, and I’ll catch you next post!

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