Helter Skelter @ BFI London Film Festival

Words by Haruno Wada

On 12th October, recent Japanese release “Helter Skelter” was screened and a Q&A was held with director Mika Ninagawa as part of the 56th BFI London Film Festival.

10月12日、ロンドンで開催の「56th BFI London Film Festival」で、映画『ヘルタースケルター』を鑑賞。その日は幸運にも、監督の蜷川実花さんが会場に現れました。

Synopsis: Lilico (played by Erika Sawajiri) is a successful actress, model and singer and all round showbiz maiden. Constantly in the public eye, the people of Japan are going crazy for her. However Lilico keeps a big secret that she is not able to share with anyone – the secret to her beauty and youth is entirely owed to plastic surgery. “Apart from her eyes, nails, hair, ears and down below, she is all fake.” Her secret eventually attaches itself to an incident that shocks the world. The director Mika Ninagawa is a professional photographer who is known for her vivid colours and creative work which shows sensitivity and imagination. Here’s a little insight picked up from the screening’s Q&A.


Q:There were a lot of use of mirrors within the film; it must have been difficult to shoot. What is the purpose behind that?
A:Yes, a mirror is the only way to truly see ourselves. I used it many times because the theme of the film is “beauty”. It does make shooting very difficult. In some cases, the cameramen had to hide behind some plants not to be in shot. One of the larger members of the crew said; “I’m going to have to lose some weight before we start the shoot!”


Q:It’s memorable how classical music was sometimes used to soundtrack the scenes. Did you select the music too?
A:Yes, I did. I love classical music anyway and so I thought about and selected the music to suit the scenes.


Q:I love Lilico’s private room, it’s really cute! It was very red, what were you implying with that strong colour?
A:It’s my favorite room, too. Lilico’s room symbolises Tokyo as a place that a lot of different things crowd in. Red is my favorite colour, and actually my room is decorated in a very similar way to Lilico’s. I was very particular about details in the décor.


The film draws a portrait of a woman who loses something of herself in return for beauty. In some ways it could be said that she is a victim of today’s society. The society that values beauty and youth above all things. The character Kozue is very impressive, played by Kiko Mizuhara and boasting the natural beauty that is unattainable by Lilico. She possibly has the strongest spirit out of all the characters as she understands her place in society. Uncaring about being socially judged or accepted, her ability to carve out her own self as she likes makes for a positive message.


The origin of the film, as with many other Japanese films, is a manga comic. Director Ninagawa mentioned it took about 7 years until she got the rights for making the comic into the motion picture.
“I’ve never waited so long for anything in my life, but this was a project that I had to do. It’s difficult to put into words but I felt strongly that it was I, as a woman, who had to shoot the film.”


She concludes:
“We, as women, cannot avoid the fate that we are firstly judged by our appearance. It’s an unbalanced world, therefore it’s important to think how we live in response to that. Beauty has a depth of knowing which cannot be easily reached. That is the main theme in my opinion.”