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The Flowers of Evil - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Aku no Hana

Japan 2019

Drama, Romance

Noboru Iguchi

Kentaro Ito
Tina Tamashiro
Shiori Akita
Marie Iitoyo
Miho Kitagawa
Takara Sakumoto
Taketo Tanaka

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The Flowers of Evil

The Flowers of Evil - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Takao Kasuga (Kentaro Ito) still goes to middle school and completely delves into a world of books. His favorite book is Charles Baudelaire's work of poetry "The Flowers of Evil". Being trapped in puberty this dark poetry somehow resonates with him. Even though as a bookworm he might give the impression of being an oddball he still has a few friends and like everyone else of his classmates he has an interest in Saeki (Shiori Akita). One day, he happens to take Saeki's sports clothes with him by chance. The next day, there is a big commotion in class because of the missing sports clothes and shortly afterwards strange and somewhat crazy classmate Nakamura (Tina Tamashiro) approaches him. She saw that he took Saeki's sports clothes and that he took a smell at them, too. If she should keep this a secret Kasuga would have to close a contract with her that binds him to do what she demands of him. Still, Saeki has in fact an interest in the student as well, as it turns out, and the two go on a date. However, Nakamura is constantly looming in the background as she wants to show the boy that he is actually a pervert and shouldn't hide his true nature. She even forces him to wear Saeki's sports clothes under his own clothes while being on the date with the girl. Kasuga is completely irritated and can't sort out his feelings. Eventually, he even starts to wonder whether or not he actually has an interest in Nakamura. But being together with her equals a lot of pain...

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The Flowers of Evil - Film Screenshot 4

Review: "The Flowers of Evil" is a strange and interesting movie. A movie about pain and disaffection. A movie about weltschmerz, which some teenagers experience in a particularly intense manner for a while. A movie about puberty. For starters, it's very difficult to fairly judge this movie, which is based on a manga by Shuzo Oshimi, if you have read the original work. I don't belong to that group, though. Nevertheless, I watched the anime from 2013 and it was one of the most unusual experiences I had with the medium. And that's not because it was the first anime that has been completely shot by using the rotoscoping technique. A technique which involves first shooting live-action movie pictures and then tracing over the images frame by frame, which technically makes that anime already a live-action series of the source material. But no, that anime stayed with me for a long time since the usual coming-of-age story has seldomly been captured as dark and full of despair like here. For the protagonists puberty is pure torment of hating everything and everyone and the complete lack of inner balance.

The Flowers of Evil - Film Screenshot 5

The movie adaptation takes the same line and stays true to the source material. This is when one of the flick's biggest flaws comes to the foreground as well, though: The events on screen come thick and fast at times and the relationships don't get the time they actually would be in need of in order to ripen with the viewer. Suddenly, Kasuga is somehow together with Saeki and you can't really understand how it came to this. And Kasuga's "twisted preferences" can't really work as sexual perversions since it more or less is a one time thing. But maybe that's all intended, since it seems as if the deliberately shallow written protagonist first has to be pushed in a certain direction by Nakamura. And Nakamura is also the actual driving force which deconstructs everything in order to reassemble it in another way just to smash everything to pieces like a discontent child. But the reason for that is not just the disdain of the teenager towards the whole world.

The Flowers of Evil - Film Screenshot 6

Kasuga is so susceptible to the girl since she captures Baudelaire's spirit. A poet who looked at all the hypocrisy and obnoxiousness in the world from the sideline and showed all of his contempt towards it. The passion which he displayed as a poet Nakamura exhibits as a teenager in the shape of her hatred towards all and everyone. This hatred has its origins in her hometown, which, according to her, is just as dead as the people living in it, but also in her broken family. Tina Tamashiro's portrayal often is a bit over the top, but that also seems to be intentional, because Nakamura is a little different from the others and not only because of puberty, which hits her with all its might. She also seems to have a bipolar disorder. Her serious psychological problems cannot be recognized by those around her, because most of who she has to deal with are teenagers, too, who are desperately trying to find their way in a world completely new to them.

The Flowers of Evil - Film Screenshot 7

At the center of the story stands the relationship between Nakamura and Kasuga. It is a relationship that is also about power - sadism and masochism. The new world that teenagers are slowly confronted with is also one of sexuality. Although Kasuga has feelings for Saeki, the scenes between him and Nakamura are a lot more sexually charged and full of confusing feelings. Nakamura looks into the depths of the human soul and wants to see the world burn. Therefore, she also ensures that Kasuga, who is easily moldable in character, makes his new girlfriend Saeki his victim. The story of the teenagers drawn here is full of pain and they themselves make sure, especially Nakamura of course, that they inflict even more of it on each other. Nakamura is the most vulnerable of the three. Her depression is eating away at her and her longing for death at least reaches Kasuga and somewhat infects him. Yet she also seems to be aware of her destructive nature, because even if she does serious harm to others, she is not ready to go to extremes.

Filmroll The Flowers of Evil - Film Screenshot 8 The Flowers of Evil - Film Screenshot 9 Filmroll

The Flowers of Evil - Film Screenshot 10

Nakamura is poison and antidote at the same time and thus the compressed suffering and feeling of having no direction in life that goes hand in hand with puberty. That makes "The Flowers of Evil" a dark drama that not everyone will be able to relate to. When it comes to romantic dramas, most people will probably be better off with a genre work like "You Lie in April", because there we get a few tears like we are used to from the genre. "The Flowers of Evil" goes deeper. Cinematically there is little to complain about. Director Noboru Iguchi usually works in a completely different genre (works like "RoboGeisha" or "The Machine Girl" should give an idea of the genre), but he manages to pinpoint important scenes in the manga and bring them to screen with necessary diligence. This inevitably leads to the fact that the story, despite its running time of 127 minutes, sometimes feels very packed and there are some coincidences that can be annoying. Unlike the anime, the film also outlines the entire story of the manga, so the ending is satisfactory and also very mature in nature. Because of its subject matter alone, "The Flowers of Evil" can sometimes seem a bit chaotic and unbearably depressing, but it is also an extraordinary drama that nobody should miss who can endure some weltschmerz.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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