(Text from the Festival's program)
WARNING: May contains trace of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot's elements before seeing a movie are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further.
I was not expecting much from this movie. I thought it would be a Fantasia-style gory and sexual horror movie. I was surprised to discover I was a more subtler and meaningful fantastical tale.
Haruka is cursed. She goes to a love hotel to have sex for the first time with her boyfriend. What should have been a pleasant occasion turns into a nightmare when her boyfriend unexpectedly and painfully dies during intercourse. She has no idea what happened: she was enjoying herself on top of him when there's suddenly a gush of blood as she appears to have ripped off her boyfriend's penis. She flees the scene in horror. The next day, in the news, the police talks of a gruesome murder as the sex of the victim appears to have been bitten off in a very inhuman way.
She skips school and wanders around in a dazed state. Has she dreamed or hallucinated the whole ordeal? Is that a fantasy induced by teenage angst and sexual anxiety? Or is she really some sort of monster and it happened for real? Is that even possible to have teeth "down there"? As she wanders on the road, she is kidnapped and raped by a pervert, but she kills him too, by "biting" off his penis with her vagina. The curse is confirmed.
Eventually, she meets Yosuke — who is nice to her and helps her overcome the trauma. She also meets his sister (so she said but she ends up being a jealous impersonator stalking Yosuke). They starts dating but Haruka fears that if they go further she will kill him. However, she accepts to date him only if they have a sexless relationship. Of course, with time, Yosuke cannot endure such a sexless love and wants to have her even if he knows that it will probably kill him. A love to die for.
The director said he was inspired by the true story of Sada Abe — who killed her lover and kept his penis as a souvenir. Even if the story had already been adapted in several movies — the most famous being Ai no Korida / In the realm of the senses by Nagissa Oshima — it seemed to him to be a good starting point to talk about sex and love.
The movie was very low budget and was shot within twelve days with a crew of seven (all volunteers) but most of the work was done by Tetsuya Okabe (directing, script, editing, etc., even paying for the lunch of the crew!). The film looks pretty good for such a low budget production and the director succeeded to turn a subject of comedic horror into a thoughtful allegory.
The title, Haman (歯まん), is a slang blend (or portemanteau) expression made from 歯 [Ha, tooth] and おまんこ [Omanko, vagina] meaning "toothed vagina". I am not sure if the director was aware of this when he wrote the script (most probably), but the idea of the "vagina dentata" (in Latin) can be found in the folklore of many ancient cultures.
All in all, it was a good movie and I enjoyed it. It is amusing to see that the story ends up much more interesting by being treated through a more mainstream movie (with minimum gore and nudity--we see Haruka's breast in only one scene) rather than as a comedic horror film.
Haman (歯まん / lit. "toothed vagina"): Japan, 2015, 95 min.; Dir./Scr./Ed.: Tetsuya Okabe; Phot.: Yumi Hasegawa; Music: HIR, Shintaro Mieda; Cast: Nonka Baba, Yusuke Kojima, Maki Mizui, Mukau Nakamura, Shoei Uno.
Film screened at the Montreal World Film Festival on September 2nd, 2015 (Cinema Quartier Latin 16, 20h30 – the theatre was filled only at 18% of its capacity) as part of the “World Great” segment. The director was present to introduce the movie and for a Q&A afterward.
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