Seijun Suzuki's The Sleeping Beast Within is a cynical, noir-flavored, detective story that plays somewhat like a greek tragedy. The film tells the story of an older businessman who has just returned to his family after an extended overseas business trip. His first night home, the businessman mysteriously vanishes, which leads to his daughter hiring a young, hotshot reporter to attempt to track down her father. When their initial investigation surrounding the events of his disappearance yield little results, the daughter is devastated, only to discover her father has reappeared at their home that night. Something seems off about him though, which prompts the reporter to dig deeper, uncovering a secret world of heroin smuggling and murder - with the father being wrapped up in a deadly game. Seijun Suzuki's The Sleeping Beast Within is a film about the evil or inhumanity in every single one of us, a story that argues all of us are capable, it just takes the right (or wrong) set of circumstances to push us over the edge. From the very beginning of The Sleeping Beast Within, Seijun Suzuki sets out to establish how noble of a character this businessman/father is, a man who spent many years working hard to provide for his daughter and wife. As the film progresses, the viewer, much like the daughter character in the film, slowly begins to learn that this man is now a part of a major drug trade, with the reasoning for the criminal behavior being quite interesting. Working for decades at a modest, respectable job, the father is a character who worked hard but for what? As his impending retirement has left him in a place of depression, fearful that his wife and daughter won't be taken care of financially. He has resentment for the world around him, not feeling appreciated, and in falling into the world of drug smuggling this man gets a taste of the rush associated of not having to live by the rules of the law anymore, making the quick buck, and the tasting power and money it can bring to him and his family. The Sleeping Beast Within is cynical in that it captures the unfairness in life, showing how this good-natured, noble man finds himself seduced to a lifestyle with a lower form of morality, due to the much more substantial rewards it offers. The daughter's realization of her father's deteriorated morality is truly the emotional core of the movie, setting up a tragedy-style ending which finds the daughter attempting to save her father, leading the man to understand the error of his ways. While far from the bombastic action films many know Seijun Suzuki for, The Sleeping Beast Within plays much like a brooding detective story, with the investigative reporter being the driving force behind discovering the truth behind the father/businessman's disappearance. Seijun Suzuki's direction is always unique, and this film is no exception, with my favorite stylistic decision in this film being the use of flashback. There are two major flashback sequences in The Sleeping Beast Within, each of which are being told by a character onscreen. While many flashbacks simply count on a slow transitional fade to inform the viewer, Suzuki opts instead to overlay the character telling the story with the flashback sequence itself, superimposing them over the action which they are describing, a unique decision which I'd argue amplifys the flashback due to capturing both the current, the person telling the story in real-time, and the events of the past. Another great example of Suzuki's ability to elevate his material through direction is a sequence early on in the film. The daughter is out looking for her father, and while having a conversation with a man she learns that her father didn't get a job he told her he did. The sequence is a simple composition, with the man on one side of the frame and the daughter on the other, but Suzuki has the daughter's image obstructed and blurred by plated glass, an interesting decision that visually evokes the sense of puzzlement felt by this woman, who for first time learns of the deceit her father is capable of. Featuring a tragic conclusion and a story that reminds the audience that all men are capable of evil, Seijun Suzuki's The Sleeping Beast Within isn't exactly an uplifting story, but the emotional core centered around the relationship between father and daughter makes the film worth seeing alone.
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