Heya (1992) - Shion Sono
Shion Sono's Heya (The Room) is a quietly menacing mood piece, a film of utter simplicity in its structure and narrative form that manages to deliver a constant existential dread that envelopes the entire experience, perhaps being best described as an art installation in cinematic form. Shot in stark black-and-white cinematography, Sono's early effort is centered around a mysterious, stoic man in search of an apartment in Tokyo, one which is small, yet spacious, positioned as far away from peoplee as possible. Enlisting the help of a real estate agent, a young, shy expressionless woman, the two set out to look at vaious apartments, though they struggle mightly to find one that satisfies the man's need for peace and quiet. While his recent output is best summarized as artistic excess, Heya (The Room) is the complete opposite, a minimalist tail of isolation and torment, told entirely through Sono's use of barren compositions and disquieting, atmospheric sound design. Nihilism runs quietly rampant through this overlooked entry in Sono's Canon, with nearly the entire film being presented in stoic, forboding nature, where desolation and decay are the main bedside companions for these two individuals, each whose self torment is shown more through their stoic silence than any type of inciting incident or plot mechanics. Nothing is given to the viewer throughout Heya, but as the film progresses we become to realize that this mysterious man has led a life of a hitman, who now finds himself cold, barren, detached from society and the connection to life which human contact brings to the individual. His search for this room is a symbolic representation of his search for finding some semblance of meaning in life, with his very distinct description of the room being at odds with itself, a manifestation of how nearly impossible it is for such a tormented man to ever find some semblance of peace, happiness or hope. While there is little dialogue throughout, a genuine bond does begin to form between these two tormented characters, each sharing the same disillusionment and quiet desperation about their place in this world. They can't help each other literally, but they do provide at least the slightest tinge of hope for one and other, as both these individuals see that they are not completely alone in their dissatisfaction with the world they inhabit. Nearly everything about Sono's Heya (The Room) is cold, discouraging, and nihilistic, as the filmmaker has crafted a menacing, atmospheric mood piece in which pain, isolation, and torment reign supreme.
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