International Title: Noriko’s Dinner Table
Romaji: Noriko no Shokutaku
Japanese Title: 紀子の食卓
Release Date: 23rd September 2006 (Japan)
Running Time: 159 mins.
Director: Sion Sono
Writer: Sion Sono
Starring: Kazue Fukiishi, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Tsugumi, Ken Mitsuishi, Sanae Miyata, Shiro Namiki, Tamae Ando, Toru Tezuka, Yoko Mitsuya
Noriko’s Dinner Table is billed as the prequel to Suicide Circle and while it may be set in the same universe and explore the same ideas it drops gore for a more intimate and surreal story.
Noriko Shimabara (Fukiishi) is an inexperienced girl who lives a quiet and comfortable life with her journalist father Tetsuzo (Mitsuishi), her mother Taeko (Miyata), and her younger sister Yuka (Yoshitaka) in Toyokawa. Noriko craves excitement and wants to head to a university in Tokyo but her conservative father is set against it and wants Noriko to head to a local university. Noriko feels alienated from her parents but finds refuge in the internet on the site Haikyo.com, a place where teenagers from across Japan gather. Noriko grows especially fond of the website’s chief who goes under the username Ueno Station 54. Noriko runs away from home to Tokyo and meets Ueno Station 54 at Locker #54 in Ueno station. The mysterious Ueno Station 54 turns out to be a young woman named Kumiko (Tsugumi) who introduces Noriko to her business named I.C. Corp which offers clients actors who provide role-play services. Noriko falls into this shadowy world of role-playing. Six months later, 54 school girls act out their roles and jump in front of a train at Shinjuku station. Back in Toyokawa, Noriko’s sister Yuka has become a member of Haikyo and aims to track down Noriko. In order to do this she heads to Tokyo. This sets in motion Tetsuzo’s search for his daughters and his investigation into a cult named Suicide Club.
Noriko’s Dinner Table is based on a novel Sion Sono wrote in 2002 named Suicide Circle: The Complete Edition which wraps around the events of Suicide Circle, resolving questions and expanding on the story and themes.
Making links between the two films is interesting as we get an insight into who orchestrated the chaos of Suicide Circle and their motives. Whether you wanted an explanation of the site haikyo.com or a behind-the-scenes of some of the most audacious moments of the first film you will get it but as a follow-up to Suicide Circle’s gory events Noriko’s Dinner Table feels very different thanks to its restraint in dealing out black humour, horror and violence. They never overwhelm proceedings but inform them. Noriko’s Dinner Table shows that Sono has grown as a writer and director and he has thought carefully about what he wants to film.
I was ripe for growth
In essence this is a mystery/family drama about existential growth. Noriko’s Dinner Table leaves behind the spectacle of mass suicide and gives a more fulsome examination of the issues of alienation, the generation gap between parents and children, and the battle between individual authenticity and conformism.