Vengeance is Mine
May 17, 2007
Shohei Imamura’s Vengeance is Mine (1979) is based on a novel by Ryuzo Saki which was inspired by the real-life story of a serial killer. According to the booklet that accompanies the DVD, Imamura spent a year researching the facts of the case and uncovered details that had eluded both Saki and the police. The filmmaker wrote a screenplay that was a fictionalized account but incorporated a lot of documentary elements to create a fascinating study of a sociopath.
In the early 1960s, Iwao Enokizu (Ogata) went on a 78-day crime spree, running scams, committing fraud and killing five innocent people. What transformed this man who came from a devoutly Catholic family into a one-man crime wave? It’s not just the crimes themselves that are disturbing, but how they were committed – cold and calculated.
Imamura doesn’t hold back on the depiction of Enokizu’s crimes, the first being the murder of two men – both are brutal, bloody and messy as the victims fight desperately for their lives. What is most chilling is the lack of remorse that he shows. Enokizu knows exactly what he’s doing and these men mean nothing to him. The film begins in the present with him in police custody telling two interrogating officers about every one of his crimes which are shown via a series of flashbacks. We also see the police investigation as they interview witnesses and family members in an attempt to get a fuller picture of who Enokizu is and what motivated him to do what he did.
His devoutly religious parents are interviewed and they shed some light on his troubled childhood. Enokizu saw his father shamed in public by a man in the military and this fostered a hatred of weakness of any kind. He led a rebellious life, going to prison as a young man for stealing a jeep. They say that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree and we see how much of Enokizu’s behaviour originates as a reaction to his hypocritical father. For someone who is supposedly steeped in religion, he ends up making sexual advances on his son’s wife and even pimps her out to one of his friends. This only deepens Enokizu’s hatred for his father.
Ken Ogata delivers a complex performance. He doesn’t portray Enokizu as some unfeeling robot but a man who knows exactly what he’s doing and why. Ogata shows many sides to the man – the calculated con artist, the frustrated son and the brutal killer. The actor even injects the occasional humourous moment as well. Ogata portrays Enokizu as a man with voracious appetites for money and women – both of which provide motivation for his crimes.
“Imamura” is an excerpt from a 1999 interview with the filmmaker for the Directors Guild of Japan. He says that he followed the events as outlined in the novel but actually visited the scenes of the various crimes in order to get his own impressions and observations. Imamura tells an anecdote about how his crew frequented a noodle restaurant run by the sister of the actual killer! The veteran director speaks knowledgably about what he wants from actors and casting them. He had had a bad experience with them in a previous film but his experience on Vengeance is Mine changed his whole attitude towards them.
Also included is a teaser and theatrical trailers.