アンダー・ユア・ベッド 「Anda- Yua Beddo」
Release Date: July 19th, 2019
Duration: 98 mins.
Director: Mari Asato
Writer: Tatsuya Ishii (Screenplay), Kei Ohishi (Novel)
Starring: Kengo Kora, Kanako Nishikawa, Kenichi Abe, Ryosuke Miyake, Yugo Mikawa,
Handsome leading man Kengo Kora takes on a daring role in this film as he portrays a stalker who, when we first meet him, is living the dream the title suggests as he is under a bed. Not yours, but his target’s bed. However this movie directed by horror specialist Mari Asato subverts the idea of who the threat is as the peeping tom who prowls around a young woman’s home is the least frightening person lurking there.
Our main character is 30-year-old Naoto Mitsui (Kengo Kora) and he has a complex because he was ignored by other people growing up. Whether at home or at school, he was forgotten about by others. The first person to notice him and call him by his name was a university classmate, a bright and bubbly cute young woman named Chihiro (Kanako Nishikawa). “Mitsui-kun” she said in class with a bright smile and warm eyes and that sealed her fate as the girl he would love.
Following a break between them, Naoto sinks deeper into an obsession as he spends 11 years with nothing but a sweet memory of a shared moment drinking coffee and enjoying her sparkling conversation but, one day, he finds her and discovers she is almost literally a shadow of her former self. She is dressed in dour colours of grey and black, eyes downcast and shadowy, her movement hunched, and her body bruised. She is a mother and wife but why is there such a drastic change? Desperate be a part of her life, Naoto begins an extensive surveillance operation as he moves into her neighbourhood and starts sneaking into her house and staying under her bed which is how he discovers what is hurting her…
And this is how we first see him!
So far, so standard issue stalker stuff. After a filmic career of psychos and doppelgangers, a stalker seems a natural fit for Mari Asato and for Kengo Kora it’s a bit of a departure as his character is a creepy lead who he essays with shuffling movements and mumbling in so quiet a voice we struggle to hear him. Handsome and unassuming though he is, he displays the extent of his obsession (and let’s not think about how he funds it) through decorating his apartment with things that signal his fixation on Chihiro:
Mannequin dressed like her that comes to life through his imagination? Check!
Huge blown up picture of Chihiro made up of smaller pictures? Check!
Photos of her in various poses that will then become masturbatory aids? Check and check!
And yet by the end of the film, we come to believe in him as a romantic hero of sorts!
The film is told mostly from his perspective as he acts as narrator and fills us in on his love so we hear his feelings for Chihiro and understand through the extent of them just how deep his mania for the woman is. This is coupled with interspersed flashbacks of being ignored and contrasting himself with insects under rocks he lifts up to show his negative self-perception. He weaves such a tragic backstory that it allows our leading man to seem fairly sympathetic and his love pure. However, it should come as no surprise when it turns out that he’s an unreliable narrator. Despite this we still feel a degree of sympathy as we hear from this loner about his anxieties and hopes.
While this may be a daring role for Kengo Kora, he doesn’t have the sleaze factor to make his character that threatening and this might be another way that the film is able to stick its tricky landing of making him an anti-hero. The greatest ace up the film;s sleeve is what we discover while watching Naoto lurking in Chihiro’s home.
Through Naoto’s voyeurism we see Chihiro’s violent and controlling husband. A seemingly nice guy, his behaviour escalates into that of an abusive beast that is almost theatrical in its villainy but allows the film to touch upon real-world issues of abuse in the family home. This is where the film’s only sense of real danger and horror comes in rather than the stalking.
Asato doesn’t flinch at showing the brutality. Slaps, pushes, punches, kicks, stabbings and sex that is always demeaning and often rape. It is horrific to watch. Lead actress Kanako Nishikawa deserves respect for baring all and allowing the camera to ogle her in almost a similar way that her cruel husband does. She maintains our empathy throughout. This leads to the film’s real tension as we watch and will Chihiro to escape. Those moments when she tries are nerve-wracking, our hopes raised until they are dashed by her husband and his subsequent beatings which are scary to view especially since they come across as realistic. Adding to making this believable is showing how those in authority fail to see abuse and how, sometimes, friends and family members are helpless when the victim cannot speak out because they live in the shadow of shame and fear.
This abuse makes the film become a universal story as well as flipping our prejudices on their head so that the presumed threat in Naoto turns into a guardian. To aid this process, the narrative switches occasionally to Chihiro’s perspective and allows her to narrate her struggle. Her story is more affecting than Naoto’s as we witness a person get destroyed by their partner and take refuge in crumbs of kindness offered by others and the hope she feels that someone out there is watching and can help her overcome her abuse. The question of whether Naoto’s obsession is one-sided and if his love can be be reciprocated is matched by whether it can offer Chihiro an escape from her situation and this provides a roller-coaster ending that is quite nerve-wracking to watch.
At the end, I was reminded of an anecdote he related of how babies raised by machines died quicker than those raised by humans. The idea was that people would die without other people but, at the end of the film, it is more like, people would die without kindness and that kindness offers hope that makes life worth living.