Labyrinth of Dreams

catalogue entry for the 45th Melbourne International Film Festival, Melbourne, 1995

Sogo Ishii's LABYRINTH OF DREAMS is radically removed from his last film seen in Australia, ANGEL DUST (1994). However their polar differences indicate the breadth and scope of Ishii's creativity. Whereas ANGEL DUST is a fractured, hyper-elliptical, postmodern text set in modern day Tokyo, LABYRINTH OF DREAMS is a wavering, multi-faceted, melodramatic poem set in the outer suburban countryside of the 50s. Yet both films have at their core the unspoken and unforgiving temperament of the serial killer, and his power over others. Romance is intensified in LABYRINTH: the Asiatic Gothic figure of Mr. Niitaka (Tadanobou Asano) casts a sexual shadow across the diminutive Tomiko (Rena Komine). He is the bus driver; she is his guide and ticket collector. He may have killed other guides; she is suspicious yet mesmerized by his Stoic presence. Before long, the question of his circumspect past is enveloped by the disturbingly distant way in which each attaches to the other. Sexual psychosis and emotional instability eventually drive their relationship - as blindly as their bus weaves across the unguarded train tracks in the forested hills. As much as ANGEL DUST cuts the skin of your eye and penetrates the ear drum with its incisive soundtrack, LABYRINTH just as potently massages, steels, haunts and tantalizes. With gorgeous (but never gratuitous) cinematography by Ishii's long-standing DOP and a luscious ambient score by Onagawa Hiroyuki, LABYRINTH is the sign of a measured control and artistic diversity.

Text © Philip Brophy. Images © Sogo Ishii.