Berlinale 2023 Review: #MANHOLE, From Claustrophobic Horror to Social Satire
Nakajima Yuto stars in director Kazuyoshi Kumakiri's genre-bending psychological thriller.
After Willem Dafoe's solo performance in Inside, Berlinale welcomed another tale
Beaten, bleeding, and semi-concussed after literally hitting rock bottom, Shunsuke is left stranded in a claustrophobic space of disgusting sewage. In a swift fall, Shunsuke becomes a male damsel in distress, as the manhole, which has been out of order for some time, lacks a ladder.
The incapacitated protagonist is left to his own devices. But his odds
When calling friends and family fail, and after police cannot
Getting strangers to flock to his rescue
Kumakiri's psychological chamber (or manhole) thriller makes a jab
The Japanese director gained recognition for his use of extreme close-ups and a sense of intimacy, and he uses formalism here for a claustrophobic nerve-wrecker. Fully aware of the potential pitfalls of storytelling in a tiny cramped space, and averting the cheap shots of retrospective narration, Kumakiri spices up the endeavor with grotesque and funny moments.
The director expertly builds suspense and expectation as the clock ticks down towards morning and more online people get involved in the strange case of a girl stranded in a life-or-death situation underground.
The ingenious second-act twist that Kumakiri
After the slow-burning and attentive first act, and the whimsical second act, which has fun skewering online behavior, trolling, and conspiracy theories, Kumakiri returns to the hole for a genre-bending finale. In nothing short of a double Shyamalanesque narrative pirouette, the director serves up fast action, melodramatic twists, and revelatory gore in the appropriately over-the-top, all-in manner of midnight cinema.
#Manhole is an inventive, genre-driven story
The film made its International Premiere at Berlinale 2023.