REVIEW: DVD Release: Sleeping Bride

Film: Sleeping Bride
Release date: 31st May 2010
Certificate: PG
Running time: 100 mins
Director: Hideo Nakata
Starring: Risa Hoto, Yuki Kohara, Takaaki Enomoto, Tomoka Hayashi
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Studio: Palisades Tartan
Format: DVD
Country: Japan

The Glass Brain by prolific manga author Osamu Tezuka (creator of Astro Boy and an obsessive Walt Disney fan) provides the bizarre inspiration for J-Horror mastermind Hideo Nakata’s left of centre romantic tale (originally released as part of the Ring Trilogy).

An emergency rescue team discover a pregnant sole survivor clinging onto life amongst the sizzling wreckage of a horrific plane crash. She manages to live just long enough to give birth to a cataleptic baby daughter, Yumi (Riso Goto).

Now motherless and abandoned by a grieving father, the child is taken into the care of a medical staff that offers little hope of her ever emerging from the deep routed coma.

Seven years later, a young boy, Yuichi (Yuki Kohara), is admitted to the same hospital suffering from chronic asthma. Bored he wonders the corridors looking for and finding a distraction in the shape of the mysterious coma girl. For the remainder of his stay, armed with a vivid imagination and knowledge of the sleeping beauty fairytale, he makes a daily pilgrimage to Yumi’s room to place a single kiss on her lips and utter the words: “I am a prince, please wake up.”

A decade on, and Yuichi, now a well-liked high school pupil, is stunned as he watches a news broadcast regarding the plane crash and subsequent birth of the coma girl. His feelings for Yumi flood back, reigniting a dormant childhood obsession and forcing him, at the expense of other relationships, to return to the girl’s bedside and continue his ritual kiss, all seemingly to no avail…

Director Hideo Nakata, who gate crashed into the public’s conciseness with breakout movie Ringu and subsequent genre defining J-Horror films, tries and fails dramatically to prove to the world that he is so much more than the master of supernatural suspense. It is true to say that he had previously enjoyed a limited success in Japan with non horror films, however, these have always had a prominent dark tone at their heart (twisted kidnap flick Chaos and documentary Sadistic And Masochistic spring to mind). However, for what is basically a reimaging of an old fairytale updated for a female teen audience, he injudiciously abandons his usual well crafted stylistic methods, honed to perfection in his classic Dark Water, for an almost straightforward directing by numbers approach.

Conspicuous by their absence are Nakata’s trademark atmospheric moments of suspense, created through nothing more than interesting camera angles. Worse still, adding insult to injury, the director replaces intriguing imagery with soft-focus insipidness, while allowing emotive sounds to be drowned in an ocean of orchestral drivel. His use of colour is drab, at best, and the music score by long-time collaborator Kenji Kawai is ill judged, at times grating on the nerves, and a constant distraction.

The dialogue, closely adapted from Tezuka’s manga script by Chiaki Konaka, is so bland that it becomes a struggle to empathise with the main characters, although, admittedly, the two leads make the most of their roles, and, unlike the supporting cast, they do emerge with some credence. In particular, Riso Goto shows promise with her beguiling and somewhat quirky depiction of a stranger fascinated by her new milieu as once dormant senses begin to blossom. Another small positive is that the film itself is not totally without charm, especially in the early stages when we watch Yuichi fall for the helpless coma girl, but these scenes are stretched out to the point that it becomes a trial of stamina just to keep eyelids open. Furthermore, a benign sub-plot is unceremoniously wedged into the mix, serving little purpose other than to emphasise the blatantly obvious in a story that would have been better suited as a compact thirty minute episode of something in keeping with The Twilight Zone or Tales Of The Unexpected.

Nakata is obviously out of his comfort zone with this story, as he attempts to cater for a slightly younger audience, but even in the film’s darker moments, when Nakata should be in his element, we are subjected to a plodding substandard made for daytime TV approach. By the time the end credits roll, our tears are not those of sadness or happiness for the characters’ plight, but of relief that we can at last get our life back.

An incredibly boring and poor adaptation of a potentially interesting story by a director forsaking his unique and intelligent style to pander to the misjudged masculine idea of the demands of a female teenage audience. MG

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