The Forest of Love [Review]

If you’ve ever wanted to see a Sion Sono film and watch him unleash himself entirely, I’d never thought that you could do so from the comfort of your couch, due to it being a Netflix film. So this gives you no excuse for you to watch the film for yourself. Unfortunately, it’s released on the same day as the Breaking Bad film, I still suggest making time to watch all two and a half hours of The Forest of Love.

To try and minimize the scale of The Forest of Love would be a disservice for the film. The synopsis on Netflix attempts to do so, but can only scratch the surface. The film is about Mitsuko (Eri Kamataki) who one day is called up by Mr. Joe Murata (Kippei Shina) to be told that he owes her ¥50 which he borrowed many years prior. It’s also about Shin (Shinnosuke Mitsushima) who starts off singing about Tokyo before befriending two strangers who teach him about the joy of making movies. Shin, had never lost his virginity, so his friends introduce him to Taeko, who once went to high school with Mitsuko. One day, Shin and his filmmaking friends record Mitsuko on a date with Murata and show it Taeko who warns them of him, since she had once known and interacted with Joe Murata as well.

The following two hours are filled with curves and twists that you almost forget where the film began. It began with a news reporting of a serial killer who leaves bodies in the woods, as well as an “inspired by true events” title card.

There’s the style that Sono is known for and that includes the bizarre and absurdist type of humour that goes along with his films. And this is definitely a constant in Forest of Love as well. There were moments that were utterly mindboggling in how impossible they may be – followed by something utterly haunting.

That’s where the film lies with me, having it be utterly haunting. All in all, the absurdity of it all, I’m still left with this massive feeling of dread. The film reminds me a lot of The House That Jack Built, a film that acts in 5 chapters as well and is filled to the brim with dread. As well, is about the same time length. And while The House that Jack Built ends with a literal descent into madness, as the film follows in its own footsteps, their descent is more metaphorical as everything around them becomes a total mess.

The Forest of Love is a descent into madness I admired, and weirdly cherished. For once, it felt wonderful to not be aware of what would follow next – and the twists felt genuine and in retrospect, made sense that I should not have been so shocked.

The film feels like an ode to the medium, but somehow still feels like a statement on how we attempt to want to appease our abusers.  There’s this sense that is common in Sono’s film about Sado-masochism. This torture that while in the film is never sexualized, but it is at times, worn as a trophy.

There are many layers that are found in the run time of the film, I’m looking forward to uncovering more.