Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, Monster begins with the story of Minato (Soya Kurokawa), a young man who lives with his mother. Having lost his father as a young child, Minato begins behaving oddly, claiming that his brain has been switched with a pig. Confused and frightened for her son, Minato’s mother assumes that this is caused by his teacher Hori (Eita Nagayama). But, when she approaches the school for answers, she finds little solace, leaving her wondering how to help her son snap back into reality.
In Monster, Kore-eda explores the nature of perspective and its relationship to evil. Throughout his career, the director has shown an interest in fueling his characters with love, even in their darkest moments. Though, in Monster, he attempts to bring nuance to villainy by shifting is telling his story from multiple perspectives.
In doing so, Kore-eda appears to suggest that we are too quick to accuse people with labels. By sharing multiple perspectives, he provides insight into the perceived misgivings of his characters and builds compassion for their situations. For example, Minato’s mother may believe that she’s fighting on behalf of her son against a toxic teacher, but Hori’s perspective reveals a very different narrative. Meanwhile, Hori’s misunderstanding of Minato’s situation fails to shine a light on the true villainy of abuse that affects his friend.
Here, Kore-eda creates a world where everyone needs to be heard but few people are listening. Whether it’s a young man who is crying out for help, a teacher who is attempting to hold his life together under pressure, or a child running from the torment of abuse, Kore-eda shines a spotlight on the importance of empowering the voices of individuals in crisis. In essence, he points out that jumping to conclusions leaves destruction but the ability to listen to one another that offers hope and compassion. (In fact, ironically, the only character who does not share his perspective is the abusive father who terrorizes his child in the background.)
After all, for Kore-eda, monsters are often created when love and humility leave the room.
To hear our conversation with Hirokazu Kore-eda, click here.
Monster is now playing at TIFF ’23. For more information, click here.