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Young Advocate Tori reviews The Dark Maiden

22 February 2018

Between 9 and 11 of February QUAD played host to The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme. One of our Young Advocates, Tori, went to see The Dark Maidens during from the programme and sent us this review.

A marginally muddled review of ‘The Dark Maidens’ by Tori Aspinell

The Dark Maidens

Japan 2017 Dir: Saiji Yakumo

I rate ‘The Dark Maidens’ 4/5 points

Subtitles have always been something that put me off of some films. This is because I’m dyslexic and if I’m not totally engrossed from beat one of a film I get completely lost to the point of no return and have zero clue what’s going on. Believe me, two years ago I went to see a very serious French film called ‘Disordered’ about a PTSD Bodyguard of an arms-dealer’s wife. I managed to mis-interpret the plot due to selective reading and ended up thinking the film was about a dog whisper who was just very serious. After watching ‘The Dark Maidens’ I can safely say that subtitles will never stop me from enjoying a film ever again!

Overall I really liked this film it had a good amount of shock value and at one point my friend jumped out of her seat. The lighting and sound cues are used in such a way to mislead the audience and set the scene which really added to the feeling of tension and unknowing (so you could empathize with the characters). However, I do see how it could be confusing if you were just half paying attention. This is not the type of film to watch whilst multitasking. There were also some plot-holes and editing effects which I found a tad on the cheesy side. For example, Itsumi jumped off of a building but lands perfectly in a flowerbed without any blood or a scratch, why was the roof so easy to access at a school with no safety railing in the first place? And why do they think that it’s ok to seriously use some of the transitions and something that looked like the snapchat ‘blemish removal’ filter in 2017? (Year of release). 

Popularity, secrets, jealousy… a spot of tea and cannibalism? To summarise the plot of ‘The Dark Maidens’ is quite difficult. It’s not the type of film which has a straight forward plot where girl meets boy or someone gets a promotion (I think there were around 7 or 8 big twists!) It’s in its own league when it comes to complex story telling. The best way to explain it is probably; the literature club of a high profile school meet at the end of term to share accounts on the death of their leader and popular ‘friend’ Itsumi, was it murder or suicide? (But with more blackmail, the odd vampire flashback and some cannibalism.) 

I like the structure of this film but I do think all the twists could get confusing if you’re not paying attention 100% from the start. At the beginning of the film we are introduced to the characters who are at the end of the story, pretty much after all the main twists have occurred (but you’re kidding yourself if you think the twists stop here). The film is made up of Itsumi’s ‘friends’ stories they have written about how they came to join the literature club, the events from their perspective leading to Itsumi’s death and who they think did it.

All the characters stories contradict each other to hide their own dark secrets, but who’s lying? Throughout the story I could never have guessed who did it, which is fun because it’s like being in a big bowl of uncertainty. (Watch the film to understand the reference ;)

‘The Dark maidens’ sinister acts draw upon an intensified yet human characteristic in which the main character Itsumi Shiraishi narcissistically tries to make life a story about her. The reason I refer to this phenomenon is because it’s something we all do to some degree, when you’re asked about yourself you tend to say your ‘life story’ you give yourself a narrative where you’re the main character and life events are plot points. Maybe you might even say you’re ‘turning a new page’ or ‘starting a new chapter’ in life. This is the basis for Itsumi but she has her story plotted and manipulates those around her to make it just so. The way the way the plot is shown, everything revolves around Itsumi and all other characters are just there to be part of her bigger picture.

I hope that made sense. So much genuinely happened in the film that there were no blank or bland moment. It was possibly the strangest, most farfetched plot I have ever seen immortalised but that’s part of what makes it so brilliant! At the end of the day we watch films to see something that isn’t the mundane everyday…and this film fits that description in a perfectly dark manner.