There’s nothing we love more than a classic night of film run by the Cleveland Institute of Art’s Cinematheque. This past Tuesday Battle Royale (2000) evoked a pretty good crowd of locals (it’s been on queue for nearly a decade, since the 25th annual Cleveland Film Festival!) who love Kinji Fukasaku‘s outrageous film based on Koushun Takami‘s novel about what happens when a 9th grade class’ annual trip turns into the first of futuristic Japan’s BR Act, aka, Battle Royale. And what do you do when you wake up on a stranded island after being sedated by your own government, wearing a collar so they can keep track of you? Only to find out that due to the country’s fiscal collapse and apathy among civilians, you must now be put to the ultimate test of survival: hunting and killing each other until there is one strong and smart enough left to survive. Oh, and it’s your math teacher who is telling you to kill everyone.
So as the class wakes up very confused, they are given a “quick demo” of the correct way to fight, which is pretty simple: kill your classmates and fight to live. If you don’t decide to do those things, it won’t even matter because the collar they have woke up with will spontaneously combust after a certain amount of time. But they won’t be set out into the wilderness empty handed. Courtesy of the government, each student has a survival pack: a gun, knife (if you’re lucky) or something totally useless; a small loaf of bread, water bottle, and well, that’s pretty much it. The rest is up to their ambition to live.
Things start to take an interesting turn after students start losing trust in one another and the dark truths come out. Some start committing suicide together, others are using their weapons to their full potential and setting each other up for their evil plots to murder, all in hopes they will be the chosen one to survive.
We are grateful to have seen this outlandish Battle Royale enfold on the big screen (thanks, Cleveland Cinematheque!), especially considering the movie has been banned from several countries due to its extremeness, and limited to strictly film festival showings in the United States. Its over-the-top plot and dark humor make it a true black comedy; you’ll have yourself questioning how you could possibly be laughing at a bunch of 15 year-olds being forced to kill each other.