Lesson of the Evil (2012)
Director: Takashi Miike
Cast: Hideaki Ito, Takayuki Yamada, Ruth Sundell, Daniel Genalo
Plot: A popular high school teacher concocts an extreme plan to deal with the rise of bullying and bad behavior among the student body.
Rating: R21 for violence and gore.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
A teacher fed up with incessant bullying and cheating by students in his school decides to take matters into his own hands in this gleefully bloody film by the notorious Takashi Miike. It is a conceptually disturbing film in the loose vein of Battle Royale (2000), only that students are not forced to kill one another to survive in an isolated island, but are simply forced into parts of the school compound where they would be sitting ducks.
It is hard to grapple with the perverse idea of a teacher responsible for planning a cold-blooded massacre in school, but this is precisely the reason Miike’s film is such an intriguing film to watch. The director’s return to the kind of insanely violent and audaciously bizarre works that he so “perfected” in films like Audition (1999), Ichi the Killer (2001) and Visitor Q (2001) is not exactly welcoming for any moviegoer in the right sense of his or her mind, but Miike remains to be a cult filmmaker, and in some regard, an accomplished one.
In Lesson of the Evil, which is comparatively mild in its graphic depiction of violence and gore, but still rightly earning a R21 rating here, Miike builds up suspense and fear slowly. His handling of tone is superb, but his subtle shifting of tone is even more impressive as the film starts ordinarily in a teachers’ meeting room and with students in the classroom, but then veers into a completely new direction in true Miike fashion.
As suspense and fear creeps in, it slowly converges into full-blown horror in the last 45 minutes of the movie, featuring some of the most intensely shot sequences you will see this year. The violence is startling, but what ‘s more disturbing lies thematically.
In particular, issues about teenage delinquency, teacher-student sexual relationships, and many more, seem to be spawned out of the chronic first-world problem of being unable to cope with the stress of educating and being educated. Miike sees the school as a prison with its dark corridors and locked doors, with uniformed students expected to conform to authority. The idea of being trapped both literally and psychologically, imprisoned by a manipulative higher power is in itself a political one.
Lesson of the Evil is not for everyone, but being a bloodbath of a film doesn’t mean it is devoid of quality. Miike’s work here is enjoyable and works equally well as a sociopolitical commentary. It is dark and twisted, but it is like that for a reason, and that reason is not a sadistic one.
GRADE: B+ (8/10 or 3.5 stars)
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