A Honeymoon in Hell: Mr. & Mrs. Oki’s Fabulous Trip
Details: (MA15+), 121 mins, Japan, English
Synopsis: Saki and Nobuyuki are pretty lacklustre as far as newlyweds go. Sure, they care for each other, but as they prepare to embark upon a future together, they can’t help but be perturbed by the lack of a certain spark. So when a wacky local fortune-teller and her oddball assistant suggest a holiday to a less-than-usual destination, the couple jump at the chance to escape reality for a while – not realising quite how literal an escape it will be.
Tonnes of fun to be had in bizarre newlywed comedy.
JAPANESE FILM FESTIVAL: At least for a few moments near the beginning, Ryuichi Honda’s wacked-out comedy seems rather wry, dry and sophisticated. The humour is understated, the shooting style subdued, the central performances turned in.
The scene is a newlywed couple – Saki (Asami Mizukawa) and Nobuyoshi Oki (Yutaka Takenouchi) – who based on their bored looks and scraps of conversation, seem less than tickled by their future together. When we first meet them the pair are surrounded by boxes, filled with still unpacked stuff (having moved into a fresh apartment I suppose) and hungry. The husband wants some rice but the wife can’t find the cooker. Once these two started to make a big deal about this missing or misplaced essential home appliance it became apparent that this movie was bound for much craziness. This suspicion was confirmed only moments later when a stranger invites them to take a “holiday in Hell”. No deal with the Satan is necessary and in fact the Old Cloven-hoofed Devil remains MIA for the entire movie. All Saki and Nobuyoshi have to do is enter the realm of the underworld via a dirty bath on the roof of a midtown apartment. And if you think that’s confusing or bizarre, then forget it, since it’s one of the more sane moments in a movie that’s crazy with ideas and imagery.
Honda’s Hell isn’t the Hell of great art or (not surprisingly) Christian storybooks, with agony and guilt and remorse in the face of mortified flesh. Instead Saki and Nobuyoshi find themselves in a holiday resort… sort of. Actually, at first, they drop in (literally) to a forest, which faintly resembles the kind of spookily treed place of horror films. But the suggestion that the newly weds are in for anything too dangerous is faint. Pretty soon they discover that Hell seems to comprise of Red People and Blue People. The Blue People, it seems, run the place. The Red people are just, well, Red. And angry. And nonsensical.
One of the big running gags of this very strange movie is that Saki and Nobuyoshi are pretty determined to sample what Hell has to offer in the way of, um, luxury. But eating in restaurants devolves into a physical confrontation with the food and getting to the room involves ascending a spiral staircase of two-dozen or more floors, while the spa is full of… well, I think it was some kind of hot soup.
Based on a novel by comic Shiro Maeda, who also wrote the screenplay, Honeymoon in Hell is a movie that wears its thematic ambitions loudly and proudly. Behind the playfulness, the surreal imagery and social/cultural gags at the expense of consumer life, the film is also a wry commentary on marriage and relationships and the somewhat idealised and naïve expectations we can sometimes hold for a relationship, a marriage (or indeed Life, with a capital L).
What’s interesting about Honda’s direction and Maeda’s script is that – most of the time – the couple turn to each other for support, and reassurance in the face of the bizarre twists in the narrative, rather than split off and pursue their own selfish needs or turn to an outsider to solve their petty needs. Or to put it another way, this Hell – made up of bad service, frustration and constant problems – becomes a test case for patience, cooperation and problem solving.
Still, all such lofty concerns aside, Honda has a lot of fun – the colour scolds the eyeballs, and at times the film seems no less than a live-action cartoon with its over-sized, distorted sets and a dialogue style that seems, appropriately enough, from another world. It’s a funny picture. And weird.
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