Symbol (aka Shinboru) (2009) Review


One of the problems with having free reign when it comes to choosing movies to review, is that when I choose something that defies review, I have only myself to blame.

Such was the case this week, when I sat down to watch ‘Symbol’.

Now, it’s well documented that Japanese movies can err on the side of strange, but this one is all shades of madness, even by those standards. I don’t even know how to class this film… Fantasy is the best fit, Drama works, but once we get more specific that that I’m lost; it’s funny, but I’m not sure it’s a comedy, it has elements that should be scary, but it’s not a horror… Is ‘Strange’ a genre?

Opening with an ageing Mexican wrestler preparing for his next big fight, the film intercuts between this story and a Japanese man trapped in a white room, as though two stories entirely separate scripts have somehow got shuffled together.

The man in the room is our main story, and it’s him we spend most of our time with. He wakes up alone in the room, which is featureless save for a single, slightly phallic, switch. Upon pressing it the room becomes covered in thousands of these switches, which can only be described as ‘cherub dicks’ – pressing each one causes a different object to be dispensed into the room.

And that’s really as much as I should tell you on the story front.

The acting in the Mexican scenes is solid enough, and those parts of the movie look great too; the acting and directorial portions of the white room segments are best described as ‘stylised’, although this works entirely in the films favour, even using comic-book segments and 4th wall breaking looks to camera.

For most of its runtime the whole thing is quirky enough to fly by, somehow I didn’t feel board even while watching our hero eat sushi in silence for an entire 2 minutes, and after I felt like I’d been watching the movie for 20 minuets or so, I was shocked to see that I was half way through the 90 minute film.

Sadly, as is often the case with surreal movies, the ending lets it down; I really think that the writer had this great idea for a strange concept, but no real way to turn that concept into a story.

Overall though, knowing that you will leave without any real resolution, I strongly recommend this movie.

I’m scared.


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