The notion of dystopia has been a popular setting for thrillers since the 20th century. The specified environment allows expressing some of the greatest concerns about social tensions, thus prompting ideas for resolving ongoing conflicts. Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale is one of the movies that mask its social commentary and an in-depth study of culture and social hierarchy under the guise of a thriller. Representing a contraption of social fears and anxieties, the film can be seen as an attempt at making a comment about the problem of tyranny, the threat of conformity, and the fear of individuality as the issues that stifle progress. The concept of conformity makes the bulk of the narrative, representing the trend toward accepting foreign influences that could be observed in the Japanese culture at the time.
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Being admittedly colorful and engaging, Battle Royale renders the themes of cultural diversity and acceptance of personal differences in a very sophisticated and quite unique. The film plants the ideas that can be downright harmful to its viewers, encouraging them to stifle social progress and accept the values and ideas that should have been abandoned. Although exploring the ideas that used to be popular at a certain moment of societal development is important for understanding the nature and course of the social progress, the reexamination thereof should not imply thoughtless acceptance of the specified principles. Battle Royale, in turn, endeavor at challenging social stereotypes of conformity and the idea of totalitarianism, encouraging people to consider critically the ideas that can be seen as unhealthy and harmful. The movie showcases the efficacy of using a dystopian formula as the method of making a commentary about social issues associated with diversity and individuality
Theoretical Perspective: Comparison and Discussion
The problem of diversity, which can be seen as the central theme with Battle Royale, can be approached from the perspective of the Modern Conflict Theory (MTR). The proposed frame of reference will allow studying the problem of the themes and their development, which can be observed in Battle Royale. For instance, viewing the film from the tenets of the MTR will allow placing the problem of discrimination and racial profiling, which is viewed in the movie as a threat to the evolution of the global society, as a result of social confrontations and anxieties (Stam 11). The fear of change and the lack of willingness to accept new cultural concepts and constructs will be interpreted through the lens of the social differences and the misalignment of social resources among citizens.
When comparing the proposed approach to the straightforward analysis of the movie, one will have to admit that the use of the MTR framework allows for a more nuanced reading of the plot, understanding of the characters, and study of the key themes. For example, the movie features the scene in which Kawada kills Kiriyama is a clear representation of one of the leading characters yielding to the norms foisted upon them by the society and fuelling an interpersonal confrontation in accordance with the MTR. Overall, the MRT framework manifests itself uninhibitedly in the movie, with each spark of a confrontation being geared by the presence of a rigid social hierarchy and the presence of omnipotent power that controls every single character.
Embracing the themes of personal development, individuality, diversity, and conflict, Battle Royale handles the issue of social interactions in a manner that cannot be deemed as very subtle, yet is admittedly effective. The film studies multiple effects of fostering the environment based on tyranny and stifling individuality by exploring a dystopian setting of the future. Despite the fact that the dystopia-based trope is currently seen as a rather frequently used one and, therefore, very easy to deploy to a film’s detriment, Battle Royale creates an environment that is very believable and quite disturbing.
The problem of social interactions and especially the fear of diversity, which spurs the further development of racism, is also examined in the movie as one of its central themes. The issue of social justice and the significance of social freedoms, including the freedom of choice, are introduced as essential themes of the film (Katz and Wallace 4). With the introduction of the totalitarian setting and the complete lack of social agency in leading characters, the movie sets the background for the study of the effects that the lack of diversity and the emphasis on conformity create in a rather claustrophobic environment of a totalitarian state (Lee and Priester 101). The movie represents a reiteration of the multiple universes that involve authoritarian settings and the promotion of military actions.
Furthermore, the problem of murder as the last resort in a conflict is studied extensively in the movie as another important theme. Battle Royal makes it evident that the concept of using murder as the last resort for protection is a dubious issue, to say the least since the notion of protecting one’s life can be stretched significantly. One of the most impactful scenes in the movie, when Kitano shoots his opponent in cold blood, leaves the viewer in a state of shock, questioning how far one may be pushed when being forced by a totalitarian regime. Simultaneously, the scene mentioned above raises the question of whether the actions such as murder can be justified in any circumstances, even the one that implies total control of citizens.
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Katz, Taylor, and J. D. Wallace. “Film, Dreams, and MMORPGs: Cultural Leakage and Digital Gaming Literacy in Inception.” Journal of Literacy & Technology, vol. 20, no. 1, 2019, pp. 1-12.
Lee, Eun-Kyoung Othelia, and Mary Ann Priester. “Who Is the Help? Use of Film to Explore Diversity.” Affilia, vol. 29, no. 1, 2014, pp. 92-104.
Stam, Robert. Film Theory: An Introduction. John Wiley & Sons, 2017.