The Shape of Night

This is a very bleak film, and an effective one, powered by two outstanding performances. Miyuki Kuwano plays Yoishe, who transforms from a sparkling 19-year-old working behind a bar to an utterly emotionless 25-year-old turning tricks on the street. Just as compelling is her caretaker / tormentor Eiji (played by Mikijirō Hira) who charms her and ends up pimping her out.

It's an old story. What makes it interesting is the complete power-reversal the film ends on. Eiji is crippled in a Yakuza turf battle, and turns into a docile house-husband. Yoishe is the breadwinner, who is offered an escape by a smitten customer. The central question in the film is whether she has the guts to abandon Eiji, and it's stretched out to an excruciating degree. Despite the years of abuse, including a horrific incident of gang rape by Eiji’s yakuza overlords, the decision pushes Yoishe beyond the edge. She feels bound to him, despite her own power, and his despicable actions.

A sense of duty that goes beyond all reason is the film’s theme, and that of the BFI season it is a part of. A Shape Of Night pulls no punches in exploring it.

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