Blue Spring (Japan, 2001)

Blue Spring, directed by Toshiaki Toyoda, is a character driven drama that focuses on a group of teens in their last semester before graduation. The underperforming high school is filled with students who don’t care, and whose life choices consist of a constant struggle to survive, joining the Yakuza, or death.

The film begins with Kujo, quiet and apathetic, winning the Clapping Game. The game requires the boys to hang over the side of the roof, on the wrong side of the railing. He who can clap the most times without panicking or falling becomes the leader of all gangs in the school. From there, each teen is forced to deal with the pressure of their final year and the choices they must make.

There are a number of themes running through Blue Spring, not the least of which is the pressure on teenagers to decide what they want to be. Yukio’s actions appear to be a reaction to this. His life appears to be predetermined and he reacts violently. Kimura, meanwhile, dedicates his life to baseball only to lose a key match. His dreams destroyed, he leaves school to join the yakuza.

While watching this unfold, I remembered something from the Micheal Moore documentary, Bowling for Columbine. While being interviewed, Matt Stone (of South Park fame) states that kids are led to believe that if you are a loser in highschool, you’ll be a loser for the rest of your life. It’s the belief in this this fallacy that underlies the actions of most of the characters in Blue Spring.

Furthermore, it takes a genuiney wrenching look at bullying and the effect it can have. As with a lot of violent situations, Kujo creates his own nemesis in Aoki. Neither one being able to back down, the two former friends face off the only way they know how.

In terms of the filmmaking, the direction is outstanding. Toyoda makes use of fast-forwards, intercuts of the magnificent scenery surrounding the prison-like school and unusual camera angles. A lot of the violence is carried out just out of view, which made me feel like an adult trying desperately to figure out exactly what was going on in that place.

The perfomances put forward by Ryuhei Matsuda (Kujo) and Hirofumi Arai (Aoki) are brilliant in their opposition.  Kujo is aloof and beautiful, the embodiment of apathy, while Aoki cares too much. The characters themselves are frighteningly easy to identify with.

My last thoughts go to the soundtrack. The Japanese punk-rock not only puts the finishing touches on each scene, but on my iPod as well. Every time I hear it I find myself picturing scenes from the film. I highly recommend checking it out.

Review by Rachel of Rach on Film and GoF Radio