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Reviewed by sieteocho

Japanese Title: Insutooru
Writing Credits: Omori Mika
Cast: Ueto Aya, Kamiki Ryunosuke, Nakamura Shichinosuke, Kikukawa Rei
Genre: Drama
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Year Released: 2004
Runtime: 94 min

When I was 17, I tried to write a play about two lonely souls communicating with each other through letter writing. To cut a long story short, it didn't work. I had seen Kiss of the Spider Woman and was probably trying to pull it off, but at least there was some action in Kiss of the Spider Woman.

Later on, when I watched You've Got Mail, which was also about communicating with each other through text, I saw that the movie had the very same difficulties that I faced when trying to write that play. And now that I've seen Install, I see that these guys have the same problem.

It's not an easy problem to overcome. Most of the events that take place when you're engaging other people through writing are extremely difficult to communicate through drama. Because drama is a medium for action, because it is primarily a visual medium.

I would have liked to read the novel, since apparently it was written by a 17-year-old girl who won a literary prize for it. It might be very - uh- stimulating to read what all these precocious young things have to say.

We get glimpses of what the movie could have been: the dangerous excitement of playing truant, the nymphomania of the young boy's stepmother, the quirky English teacher, the UN scenes. Why weren’t there more scenes about the troubles the young kid was having at school? Who was the teenage boy who committed suicide and why did he matter? What was the nature of the relationship between the schoolgirl and her mother? Why did the schoolgirl and the teenage boy have existentialist conversations in a clock tower?

None of these threads are satisfactorily explored. Instead the movie places most of the scenes in the little boy's bedroom, and stays there for far too long, resulting in yawn-inducing tedium.

In fact I was half expecting that she would try to seduce some of the UN delegates. That would have been fun. The movie is even too safe for that.

However, the characterization is a complete failure. You might argue that children do not have fully-formed characters. But this is a coming-of-age film, and you could have shown some development and growth in the teenage girl’s character.

As with The Last Life in the Universe I was attracted by the trailer, probably because this is the sort of movie (contrived set pieces, beautiful people) that looks good in a trailer. It has many of Last Life’s flaws - ponderous pacing, inconsistent emotional tone, lack of dialogue and interaction (but without any other means of communication as substitute.)

And worst of all is the attempt to depict an emotionally empty life by actually showing it emotionally empty. If you want to know how to depict an empty life in an interesting way, go and watch a film like Ikiru, or Being There.

Therein lies the crux of the problem with many movies today, which attempt to depict a hyperkinetic but hollow existence that is typical of life in this digital age. "Life has no meaning" is one of the most difficult ideas to communicate through the cinematic medium. In fact if your name is not Wong Kar Wai I wouldn't even advise you to show up.

[This review first appeared in sieteocho.]