When you watch a film you often look for some meaning behind the images you are seeing. Whether it be horror, action, love, or any other genre there is an aim to the story. This is what makes Tetsuya Marko’s Destruction Babies (Disutorakushon beibîzu) so hard to pin down, because it doesn’t care about the rules, it just wants to cause chaos.
The film starts with Taira (Yuya Yagira) deciding to leave town before a coming of age festival. Nobody seems to care but for his younger brother Shota (Nijoro Murakami) who witnesses Taira being attacked by a group of young thugs. Wandering to a nearby city, he starts fighting with anybody in his path, which catches the interest of Yuya Kitahara (Masaki Suda) who soon joins Taira in his need for destruction.
Much is made about the extreme nature of Destruction Babies, and it is fair to say that this is a movie that does take violence to an uncomfortable level. There isn’t anything cartoonish about a character getting his face bashed in and every hit feeling bone-crushingly real but this is what is put on display. Mariko’s direction of the film makes it feel almost like a documentary, but one that is hard to look away from.
What I was most impressed with in the film is the chaotic nature of the filming, with the camera angles not feeling traditional, but carefully chosen to make things feel a little too real. Sometimes we are put into the perspective of a character sat in a car who is witnessing the violence, and we are even given the view through a phone’s camera. This all adds to the realism that is needed to make Destruction Babies work. We are taken close to the violence, and to an uncomfortable level. Though just impressively, sometimes events take place off camera for us only to guess at. Seeing the results though, it isn’t hard to deduce what has taken place.
What Destruction Babies is about is violence, and in some ways the normalisation of it. When we see Taira keep on getting into fights, often outnumbered and losing, we tend to get used to it. It almost feels comical when he suddenly claims a victory and celebrates. To provoke a feeling in the audience though that the enjoyment of violence isn’t right, we then have the character of Yuya.
When he joins in the violence, his method of enjoyment (as it is all about instant gratification) is to attack young women and those who can’t defend themselves. He is a typical teenager who has a life full of computer games and popular culture. We see this when he references One Piece, calling himself a Pirate King like Luffy. The fact that he compares his relationship with Taire to a role-playing game is also interesting.
The fact he refers to himself as a Beastmaster, and directs Taire to his next fights is telling of what Yuya is trying to achieve. What his character works as though is the voice to the violence, making it all more human and this is where things start to become uncomfortable. No longer is it just about Taire getting into fights he will inevitably lose, Yuya begins to hurt women, even to the point of kidnapping one and enjoying the dominance he has over her.
With Destruction Babies, it is easy to sit here and compare it to modern society and what it means, but the truth is it is a film that has to be watched to be understood. It is may be cliché to say that people need to watch it to get their own interpretation of the film, but here it is true. The film has a Fight Club feel to it, where anarchy reigns, but it also has a harsh more realistic edge to it where the characters feel on the edge of death at any minute, and they are literally looking for life to finally put them out of their misery.
So, is Destruction Babies the most extreme film I’ve seen? I’d say not, but it has a different style. Where films by Takashi Miike (as an example) are more cartoonish in style, Destruction Babies never leaves the realm of reality. This is where the harsh nature of the film grabs you and makes you enjoy it in a way that may feel uncomfortable, but in the best way possible.