Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Written by Tomohiro Maekawa, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Sachiko Tanaka
Django Film and Nikkatsu
By Glenn Tolle
Much like Guillermo del Toro’s latest film THE SHAPE OF THE WATER, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s latest film BEFORE WE VANISH is also “a fairy tale for troubled times”.
When Orson Welles radio dramatization of H.G. Wells seminal alien invasion tale THE WAR OF THE WORLDS first aired on October 30th 1938, the second (or third) question on everyone’s mind (who believed aliens were invading) was arguably “why invade us”? The easiest response would be “Why not?” The tougher and more controversial response would be “why now?” as it implies a reason (or reasons) that could be challenged. As it stands , the human race is in a precarious state and it wouldn’t be hard for an extraterrestrial species to come to that conclusion, largely from our hostile interactions with one another.
In BEFORE WE VANISH, based on the play by Tomohiro Maekawa and directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, three aliens come to earth in order to prepare for an invasion. They recognize that humanity is about cave in on itself and they’re ready to reap the benefits. But things don’t go according to plan. One of these aliens makes a mistake, a mistake that couldn’t possibly have been foreseen.
BEFORE WE VANISH contains elements of both INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) and George A. Romero’s underappreciated classic THE CRAZIES (1973). It carries with it a strong social message wrapped in a science fiction/horror narrative, and copious amounts of sincere deadpan humour and questions meant to provoke discussion.
Like Romero and del Toro, Kurosawa manages to convey the film’s message without being heavy handed. Instead of launching a full frontal assault on the lack of love in the world (and the various social and political repercussions) he first removes himself from the narrative, allowing the aliens to assault the world as a whole. In this way, Kurosawa manages to create a film that is not only eloquent and engaging but respectful and controlled. BEFORE WE VANISH serves as an example of how love can be resurrected in our collective dialogue through imaginative and mature exposition.
There’s so much to take away from this tender and terrifying alien invasion epic; it is one that everybody needs to experience… before we vanish.