Traces of Sin
Kei Ishikawa · 2016 · 120 minutes
preceded by Matou
It’s been almost a year since the brutal stabbing of an upper-class family and still the case remains unsolved. Investigative reporter Tanaka (Satoshi Tsumabuki) decides to revisit the story of “the perfect family” that met their demise: a businessman, his beautiful wife, and their adorable child. Tanaka takes an obsessive dive into the case, interviewing the victims’ friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. What he uncovers is that the couple were not what they seemed, over the years leaving a trail of selfishness and exploitation that snowballed to their murders. As he delves further into the world of social cliques and class warfare, he is provided respite from his sister (Hikari Mitsushima) who has been jailed for child abuse.
Produced by Office Kitano, Kei Ishikawa’s first feature is a haunting depiction of class elitism, as if The Great Gatsby were a murder mystery. Its structure is investigative, almost Rashomonic. But where Citizen Kane’s reporter and O’Brien’s insurance investigator in The Killers become emotionally invested in uncovering the hidden lives of the recently deceased, Tsumabuki’s Tanaka is stone-faced, ulteriorly motivated, and just as empty as his interviewees. There is a perverse pleasure to be derived from peeking behind the curtain of “perfection” and witnessing human manipulation en masse. On a visual level the film stands out amongst other Japanese films thanks to Polish cinematographer Piotr Niemyjski, who finds subtle ways to keep characters distant, whether in shadow or separated by glass, and is skillful enough to make scenes feel fresh when we see them from another angle. The opening scene is indicative of the talent involved, with little dialogue and in a few minutes we are trained how to watch the film and how to read its characters.
Filmography: Dear World (short ‘08); It’s All in the Fingers (short ‘10); Conversation(s) (short ‘13).