Motion Picture: Choke

International Premiere | In Competition


Guest star:
NAGAO Gen, director
WADA Misa, actress
TANAHASHI Kimiko, producer


Films about dystopian near-futures, from Blade Runner to Mad Max, typically assume that humanity will still be recognizably human, however strange or savage society may be. Similarly, films set in the prehistoric past, from Caveman to Quest for Fire, may be populated by primitive peoples but they have tribes and languages.

Nagao Gen’s entertaining, imaginative and thought-provoking Motion Picture: Choke proposes something different and unique: a future in which civilization has collapsed and human speech has ceased to exist. Communication is strictly through looks and gestures. Or perhaps it isn’t a future but rather an alternative reality; we don’t know since its inhabitants can’t tell us.

Thankfully, the main protagonist is played by Wada Misa, an indie veteran whose tour de force performance amuses and chills without a single word spoken. Also, though her character’s costume may recall Raquel Welch’s famous fur bikini in One Million Years B.C., she is not a caricature but rather a woman with a full range of emotions, as well as smarts and spunk.

Shot in black and white, the film is set in and around an abandoned two-story concrete building that the heroine has made her home. While it does have a roof, the dwelling is open to the elements on one side, with a commanding view of the surrounding countryside.

When we first meet the protagonist, she is living alone a la Robinson Crusoe, fetching water from a nearby stream with containers she has fashioned from bamboo and gourds, then building a fire and roasting a small animal she has hunted (though it looks suspiciously like a stuffed toy).

When it rains, she turns jars upside-down to catch the plonking sounds of raindrops, which she accompanies by beating various objects with sticks. Making music, she is happy. Life is good.

This opening section plays like a silent comedy, with funny sight gags woven into every scene. In the heroine’s bartering session with an elderly itinerant trader, seemingly her only visitor, they swap slices of dried meat as though they were Pokemon trading cards.

But this paradise does not last. A trio of bandits led by a white-robed man (Nishina Takashi) appears one day bent on thievery and worse. The protagonist fights back valiantly but falls into their clutches. After they leave, she has nightmares of a black-clad succubus with staring eyes looming over her supine form.

She catches the next male invader – a long-haired young guy (Hiba Daiki) – in a trap but releases him after sensing that he is harmless. Grateful, he becomes her goofily eager helpmate and lover. Paradise is regained, until the bandits return.

In the ensuing struggle, the film recapitulates human history in miniature: war, slavery, the advent of material civilization and the imposition of patriarchy. Our heroine gains a new, bitter wisdom – and strength.

Motion Picture: Choke, however, is not a simple feminist parable about one woman’s fight against male perfidy. Instead, the shocking climax posits the existence of dark forces that defy easy interpretation. Are they inherent in the human psyche? The judgment of an angry god? Ghosts bent on vengeance? This entertaining and disturbing film, which fits into none of the usual genre categories, is finally less about an alternative Eve’s unfair expulsion from the Garden of Eden and more about the consequences for Cain after the killing of Abel. These are consequences we are still living with today.

Mark Schilling
Film director: NAGAO Gen
Year: 2023
Running time: 109'
Country: Japan
27/04 - 11:10 AM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
27-04-2024 11:10 27-04-2024 12:59Europe/Rome Motion Picture: Choke Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine
Online in Italy on Sunday, April 28, 2024 from 8 pm to 11:59 pm (cest)