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Original Title:

Japan 2003


Joji Iida

Satoshi Tsumabuki
Takayuki Yamada
Naohito Fujiki
Yoshimasa Kondo
Kyusaku Shimada
Minori Terada
Jinpachi Nezu

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Story: During a school trip the train, in which Teru (Satoshi Tsumabuki) sits, derails. When he regains consciousness he discovers that he is one of the only survivors together with Ako (Sayaka) and Nobuo (Takayuki Yamada).
Teru wants to leave the collapsed tunnel as soon as possible and go back home, but Nobuo, who meanwhile went insane because of the catastrophe, hinders him.
Nevertheless, together with Ako, Teru manages to get back to the surface. But they are welcomed by a shocking view: destroyed buildings, burned corpses, and everything is covered with a thick layer of ashes, that continously is getting thicker by the falling ashes from the darkened sky.
In addition, the last survivors of the catastrophe seem to have gone crazy and are killing each other. For Teru and Ako their fight for survival begins...

Review: Post-apocalyptic movies do have one problem. Although I like the genre, it's especially this category that brought us some really boring movies. Luckily, "Dragonhead" isn't one of those. This is because the movie places much value on something all catastrophy-movies should focus on: the atmosphere. This is "Dragonhead"'s great strength. Rarely you'll see a more depressing or darker movie about this subject. Even at the beginning, in the first 30 minutes, which are just taking place in a tunnel, everything is very claustrophobic and gloomy. In an impressive manner the three main leads are introduced to us and the madness, here embodied by Nobuo, is just a foretaste of what awaits us.

However, the main movie starts, when Teru and Ako reach the surface and discover a world in pieces. You don't see anything that impressive everyday. Skyscrapers lie in ruins, everywhere cindery dead bodies, and there is continously ash falling from the sky, silencing every sound or emotion. The emptiness, that you feel with the two main protagonists, when they realize that it looks like this everywhere on the planet, is taking away your ability to feel anything else for quite some time.

It's the effects that give the movie its special depressive-realistic flair. You even find yourself thinking, that it might not hurt to go to the window and take a look outside, 'cause maybe there is in fact everything covered by a thick layer of ash. The efforts the producers went through to let Tokyo look like it does in "Dragonhead" must have been enormous, and nonetheless you won't think of the special effects while watching the movie, because it's all just so realistic. At the same time, the picture has always some grainy touch, which just adds to the atmosphere.

The plot is as captivating as it is simple. What exactly happened? Why are the rest of the survivors going crazy and starting to kill each other? Although not every question gets an answer, which may disappoint some viewers, you are alway curious of what might happen next.
The two main actors have been a good choice of the director. Despite all despair, they manage to keep alive hope and make the darkness somewhat bearable for us.

The downside of the movie is, that there are oftentimes some lengthy scenes, in which the actors just walk through the ash-covered leftovers of a town without speaking a single word. This way you can identify yourself even more with the characters and become a part of the omnipresent monotony, but on the other side it's also a bit boring. Yet, the little dialogue of the movie manages to move the plot forward. Besides, there are some disturbing pictures and phylosophical thoughts, that animate to think for yourself, even after the ending credits.

"Dragonhead" is based on a Japanese comic and the movie also mainly focuses on its visuality. These impressive pictures are also the reason why the movie clearly stands out from similar movies. Sure, as a movie "Dragonhead" has its flaws, but its pictures will be in your head even days after watching and that's what makes it recommendable.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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