Gemini (Japan, 1999)
Shinya Tsukamoto’s horror/drama Gemini is loosely based on the short story “The Twins” by Edogawa Rampo. The cult director’s first period piece takes place during the Meiji Period which occurred in Japan from 1868 to 1912 when the country was opening up to Western civilization. It focuses on Yukio (Masahiro Motoki), a young doctor who has taken over a practice from his retired father (Yasutaka Tsutsui) in a well-to-do neighborhood. He lives with his parents and his wife Rin (Ryo), although there is tension between Yukio’s wife and mother (Shiho Fujimura). While Yukio and Rin seem happy, his wife is suffering from amnesia and there is some question about Rin’s background. Yukio’s charmed life begins to fall apart with the mysterious and suspicious deaths of his parents following the appearance of an odd stranger. Soon after, Yukio’s relationship with his wife becomes strained when he helps the mayor with a minor injury while sending away a plague victim from the slums. Yukio is finally attacked by the mysterious stranger, Yukio’s doppelganger, who throws the doctor down the garden well and takes over his life.
Gemini is a departure for Tsukamoto from his well-known cyberpunk and industrial style, yet it retains some of the dizzying hyperactivity and stylized feel that the director is known for. While Yukio’s environment seems settled, traditional, and staid, the slums, where his doppelganger ultimately comes from, have an almost carnival look and atmosphere. Yukio and his doppelganger, Sutekichi (Motoki) are complete opposites. Yukio is impassive and reserved while Sutekichi is excited and brash. Rin notices a difference in her husband when he suddenly becomes passionate and attentive during sex, but Sutekichi continues the ruse, even after it is discovered that they share a past. Sutekichi torments Yukio while he gaslights Rin. His affectation of restraint is not wholly an act. Yukio is also changing. There is an awakening happening and a more animalistic nature emerges as he fights for survival.
While the style of Gemini differs from Tsukamoto’s other films, his usual themes remain. The film deals with classism, discrimination, isolation, torment, and jealousy. It depicts the worst of human nature with the keeping of secrets and doing whatever is necessary to survive, which we see with Yukio’s parents, as well as Rin. The acting is amazing with Motoki playing both the vindictive Sutekichi and the spoiled Yukio. Ryo is fantastic as Rin as she deftly portrays a woman trying to fit in and maintain her sanity as she tries to make sense of what’s going on around her. Gemini refers to twins or duality which we witness in equal measure with the good and evil twins Yukio and Sutekichi, and in the duality of Rin as both an innocent woman and a sinner. In my opinion, Gemini is one of Shinya Tsukamoto’s best films.
The new Blu-ray release from Third Window Films has many great extras, including behind-the-scenes footage, a making of featurette by Takashi Miike, and a fantastic commentary by Tom Mes.
Gemini is now available on Blu-ray and On Demand from Third Window Films.