Review by Leo Goldsmith
Posted on 21 September 2005
Source Gold View Digital Video Projection
Features: The 43rd New York Film Festival
Haze runs for just under an hour, but it’s an arduous hour. Taking place almost exclusively inside a network of dark, cramped, concrete spaces, the film follows one man for almost its entire duration as he endures mental and physical torture and tries desperately to claw his way out.
Haze, a special presentation at this year’s New York Film Festival, is the new film by Shinya Tsukamoto, the star and director of Tetsuo, the Iron Man. As in most of his earlier films, Haze stars Tsukamoto himself as the protagonist, here an amnesiac who finds himself inside a concrete maze for reasons he cannot remember. And also like his previous work, the film is an innovatively perverse experience, subjecting Tsukamoto (and vicariously, the audience) to an inventory of nerve-wracking torments.
From the first shot, with Tsukamoto’s digital camera thrust into his sweaty and petrified face, the viewer is forced to share the protagonist’s claustrophobia. But it soon becomes apparent that this is the least of his worries, as he is successively subjected to clubs, spikes, barbed wire, and (worst of all) extreme dental discomfort. But as he makes his way through each new, confined chamber of horrors, his strength and will to live dwindling rapidly, it becomes clear that he is not alone.
Many explanations for this torture are conjectured by the protagonist (is he a prisoner of war? Of a cult? Of a rich pervert?), but not surprisingly, the reasons for his confinement remain obscure. As flashes of the man’s memory return, the film’s tone becomes thankfully less barbarous and its imagery more impressionistic, even lyrical. In this way, Haze retains much of its subversive power and avoids any recourse to generic convention. There are some typical horror-movie tropes, as in the occasional and wholly unnecessary loud bursts of music that accompany brief shots of mangled viscera. But Haze is most effective when it is at its quietest, or when it is mining its seemingly bottomless reservoir of inspired sadism.