タリウム少女の毒殺日記 「GFP Bunny Tariumu shojo no dokusatsu nikki」
Running Time: 82 mins.
Release Date: July 06th, 2013
Director: Yutaka Tsuchiya
Writer: Yutaka Tsuchiya
Starring: Yuka Kuramochi, Makiko Watanabe, Kanji Furutachi, Takahashi,
Not for the faint of heart, GFP Bunny is the third film directed by media activist Yutaka Tsuchiya. Following on from his debut The New God (1999) and sophomore feature Peep “TV” Show (2003), GFP Bunny is a continuation of his exploration of alienated youth using media to shape their personalities. It finds its troubling story in a real-life criminal case from 2005 where a 16-year-old girl poisoned her mother with thallium and documented the act online.
Crowned winner of the Best Picture Award in the Japanese Eyes section of the 2012 Tokyo International Film Festival, GFP Bunny is challenging viewing in both story and style. It opens confrontationally with the stomach-churning sight of a frog being dissected before deluging audiences with scientific research, scenes of bullying and near-murder and a girl’s search for identity but, instead of a straight retelling of the case via a lurid drama or factual documentary, director Yutaka Tsuchiya opts for a metafiction that is delivered through a docu-drama format which he uses to address ideas of “Surveillance in a Marketing-orientated Society”, “Characterisation of Identity” and “Biotechnology” (Source).
In the dramatic parts we follow the actions of Thallium Girl (gravure idol Yuka Kuramochi), a precocious schizophrenic teen living in a single-parent household. Disconnected from her youth-obsessed mother (Makiko Watanabe) and suffering intense bullying, her two outlets are science and the internet.
At home on the web, like an ordinary teen, she records herself dancing to obscure net culture music like Cirno’s Perfect Math Class, browsing videos of bullying from around the world and has no problem putting her personality in the digital realm for all to see. Indeed, her bullies have no problem digitising their torment of her, including one video where she is treated like a frog.
Showing an extreme fascination with science, Thallium Girl researches the latest advances in genetic engineering, ‘bio art’ and body modification and uploads videos of her dissections and testing of small animals and insects. Through science she transforms herself into an “observer” and this is how she mediates life, especially the bullying she is subjected to as she abstracts herself from the horror and views herself as part of an experiment.
Where the poison plot comes in is that the girl’s mother, trying to prevent ageing, grows obsessed with cosmetic surgery and biological changes to her body. Thallium Girl naturally sees parallels between research and life and so the daughter views her mother as a specimen for experimentation and begins to administer small amounts of thallium and recording its effects via an online diary and YouTube videos. This is how we view her mother’s growing sickness as well as Thallium Girl as both observer and observed as we view her internet videos and get her perspective on the world.
As despicable as her actions sound, as the film plays out, there is the sense that there is no malice in her intent but, rather, an interest in science and a desperate desire to evolve beyond her present circumstances and so the idea that the poisoning is an experiment rather than a murder plot founded upon bullying and unhappiness begins to emerge. It takes nearly the entire duration of the film but the documentary aspects deliver this understanding.
Scattered throughout the fiction are interviews with real-life experts and vox pops with the general public about the ethics and techniques involved in body and genetic modification and also sequences where we see it for ourselves. The biologist who invented a transparent frog to lessen the need to dissect regular frogs, a practitioner of Raelism who argues that humanity must harness science to evolve, and Takahashi, an artist who does body modification who has implanted an IC chip with GPS in her hand all feature and show a possible future where changing our biological makeup can allow us greater control and understanding of ourselves which, we learn, is what Thallium Girl is searching for.
These sections act as a good way of addressing the themes of identity and biotechnology and offer a rational explanation for the actions of Thallium Girl that go beyond teenage alienation. Perfect for the story, they form parallels with the experiments she does as a way of searching for an escape from her everyday travails and add to her character arc. This mixture of voices also helps the form of the film where it moves at a rapid clip between drama and short but interesting interviews that chunk the information that Thallium Girl is absorbing from the net and act as a way of detailing the sort of stuff that she is writing down in her online diaries to help further centre her perspective and make her a more sympathetic person and not just a monster from a new story.
Probably the most menacing thing about the film was no longer the issue of poisoning and changing bodies but the issue of “Surveillance in a Marketing-orientated Society”. A convincing argument is made that freedom is lost in the capitalism-driven date harvesting age that we live in as we surrender personal details and even our image to CCTV, YouTube, and find ourselves ceding control over to others who can edit and control these things. With so much of her life mediated by the internet, being with Thallium Girl creates a suffocating feeling made worse in the fact that the data-harvesting world depicted in this nearly decade old film has come true.
So while it would be easy to dismiss Thallium Girl’s experimentation and her interest in body modification as some sort of perverse extension of her wayward behaviour, we see how it offers a liberation from the real world and all of its controls and maybe it adds a last chance of freedom for a girl struggling to understand herself. This is best felt in the final five minutes where she breaks away from school and strides to Takahashi with pop punk playing on the soundtrack. It is an uplifting moment after so much turmoil and I must admit I got teary eyed as I watched Thallium Girl seize her own identity.
Creating this metafiction is Tsuchiya who acts as narrator and skilfully channels different currents of information together to create a complex collage of a modern alienated youth. From conducting talking head interviews to even engaging in a dialogue with Thallium Girl, his presence allows the film to navigate a lot of information and creating a nuanced and unique look at a criminal case that one might be tempted to recreate using staid forms like a straight documentary or fiction. While he admits that he changed details about the original case to make his film, it all rings true, an accurate picture of our information-driven age and people who find themselves changing their personalities through it. As such, the film is a constantly engaging experience that turns a crime into a probing character study and an examination of where we are going as a society and in its fair-minded engagement of issues, it shows that we can harness change for the better.
I first heard about GFP Bunny with its appearance at the 2013 edition of the Rotterdam International Film Festival . It was a film I have spent years hoping to see because I was intrigued by the synopsis, wowed by the trailer and aware of the filmmaker behind it. Nearly a decade on, I am glad I have watched it.