DV / Domestic Violence
- Original title
- DV Domestikku Baiorensu
- Japanese title
- DV ドメスティック・バイオレンス
- Running time
- 85 minutes
- 23 June 2006
by Tom Mes
Shogo (Endo) and Yasuko (Hanabusa) are happily married. Until one evening when he slaps her in the face for reconsidering the promise she made before their wedding: to quit her job and devote herself to domestic chores once the knot was tied. From that first instance of aggression, things rapidly spiral out of control. Mounting violence becomes the new order of the day between the couple.
This kind of material, shot on the cheap for video release, could easily have crossed the line into tastelessness. Certainly, casting Kenichi Endo, who has played more than his share of misogynistic bully roles, reeks of typecasting and doesn't inspire much confidence that Domestic Violence will be anything more than an underfunded variation of such awkward demagoguery as the Jennifer Lopez vehicle Enough.
However, in every department, from the performances to the script to the direction by indie veteran Shun Nakahara (who previously dealt with these issues in the Randy Taguchi adaptation Concent), DV displays a genuine sensitivity to the issue it treats. It willingly engages the complications, the ambivalent emotions and the social trappings that come with the problem of violence and physical abuse within a couple or family. Without a doubt its intentions are earnest. Instead of making Shogo into a stereotypical creep, he starts out a caring, loving husband, who gradually loses control over the insecurities that lurk just beneath his well-behaved persona.
One of the most startling scenes is the one where Yasuko, having finally mustered up the courage to stop blaming herself and seek help, runs away from home and stumbles into the local police koban, limping and covered in bruises. Seated in the sparse, brightly lit little space, she has to suffer through a lecture from the neighbourhood beat cop, who tells her she is overreacting and probably had the abuse coming because of her shortcomings as a wife. It's not just the words that send chills down the viewer's spine, it is the complete sense of helplessness and oppression created by the scene. For while the cop holds his monologue, we see a silhouette slowly approaching in the dimly lit streets outside. We know that Shogo has come for his wife. The suspense created by the scene is riveting and the pressure becomes unbearable when Shogo calmly steps into the koban, takes Yasuko by the arm and drags her home with the policeman's approval.
None of this would work nearly as well without a set of great performances, though. Yuka Hanabusa is the kind of wholesome beauty who could spend an entire career playing second fiddle in genre movies and TV dramas relying purely on her looks, but she rises to the occasion here. Most western viewers will know Kenichi Endo for the short-fused yakuza shtick that he has by now perfected in countless straight-to-video films, but the actor has a few more aces up his dramatic sleeve. He has worked extensively on the stage and has appeared in non-genre films for the likes of Hirokazu Koreeda and Yoichi Sai, and it is this experience that Endo brings to DV, turning Shogo into a nuanced, multifaceted character, and keeping him believable throughout, whether kicking his wife while she's down, being an attentive host to his business partners, or sombering into memories of his misspent childhood. Equally revealing of hidden talents is Kazuyoshi Ozawa, another veteran of V-cinema gang flicks (in particular those directed by his brother, Score's Hitoshi Ozawa). As with his recent lead turn as a fading folk singer in Ryuichi Honda's serio-comic pinku My Wife's Shell (Dappi Waifu, 2004), he proves himself a capable character actor in his role as Yasuko's counsellor, one with chameleonic qualities to boot. He also co-wrote the script, revealing further hitherto untapped talents.
Director Nakahara, for his part, shows that a classic filming style can work well even when employing digital video; the format actually adds to the immediacy of the subject and the settings. Although for its budgetary constraints DV / Domestic Violence may not seem like the kind of big dramatic statement churned out by the likes of Koreeda or Akihiko Shiota, it emerges as no less pertinent, its seemingly lowly pedigree forming no hindrance to its vitality and relevance.