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Review: Vital

Logged on to Kanopy to watch Vital, a Japanese love story with a dark twist (hardly shocking, considering it was directed by Shinya Tsukamoto, who also helmed the experimental body horror classic Tetsuo: The Iron Man). Tadanobu Asano plays an amnesiac medical student that decides to return to the studies he’d previously abandoned in an effort to reconnect with his past. As a few vague fragments of his memory begin to resurface, however, he realizes that the cadaver he’s been dissecting in class is the corpse of his former girlfriend. Determined to rediscover the relationship he shared with this dead woman, he tirelessly continues his examination of her anatomy—and, in the process, gradually alienates his classmates, his family, and his current romantic partner. Though the premise sounds like pure exploitation, it’s executed with a surprising degree of tact and tastefulness. Light on gore but dense with surreal imagery, Vital is a haunting, evocative meditation on loss, mortality, and identity.

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