*WARNING: SPOILER ALERT*
Takashi Miike’s Ichi the Killer, using the lens of extreme violence, makes a social commentary, looking at the drastic and varied effects of the loss of agency within adult males. One scene in Miike’s Ichi the Killer which displays the effects of violence on multiple levels is that of Ichi’s killing of his favorite prostitute (Sailor) and her pimp. In the scene, viewers are jarred between point of view shots and voyeuristic long shots of the beating and subsequent rape of sailor. In this way, physical violence and violence against women are blended to become a voyeuristic experience for both the viewers and Ichi. The scene is punctuated by non-diagetic sound and flashbacks to Ichi’s fabricated memories of his witnessing of the rape of Tachibana. Through this method, the line between reality, dreams, and memories is blurred. The scene continues as Ichi bursts into the room. He is first punched in the face, and then dragged into the room by the pimp before being ridiculed.
Ichi’s perverse interest in the violence enacted against Sailor gets him caught and subsequently ridiculed, which leads to Ichi feeling guilty and crying. Funnily enough, it is this guilt and reaction to said guilt which leads to Ichi’s transformation into the bloodthirsty killer Ichi. The camera then pans to a shortened shot of Ichi’s feet as he cries and raises his leg in his standard kicking motion, before quickly jumping to the back of the pimp as he is sliced in half by Ichi’s blade. The pimp staggers backwards and the camera jumps between two close up shots of the pimp’s face and Ichi’s face, before the pimp falls apart into halves, right in front of the camera.
As sailor arises, she begins to begins to question Ichi’s actions, Ichi tells Sailor not to worry, as he will be the one to beat her from now on, all the while becoming sexually aroused. Sailor, facetiously thanks Ichi before attacking him with a bat. The camera then pans to a closeup to Ichi’s face as he begins to cry. Filled with despair, he slashes Sailor’s throat, leaving her to bleed profusely from her neck before finally dying.
Through the use of camera angles, and blocking, Miike presents a social commentary on violence such that through the loss of agency, men can become privy to a type of perverse relationship with violence . Miike himself is known for using the extreme violence in his films to represent something more as the violence is so gory that it becomes fantastical. In this sense, the violence presented in Ichi represents the consequences of said perverse form of violence. Through the emphasis on switching from close up point of view shots to over the shoulder long shots, the camera gives the impression of an active voyeur to the action, more so than regular film. Through this voyeuristic, dream like violence , we are given a view that the line between “real” violence and “fake” violence must be consciously addressed. If not, it will only lead to shame, guilt, and eventually despair, much like the character of Ichi, who is manipulated to enact this violence throughout the film.
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