25 June 2010 | ebossert
Goes To Some Really Dark Places. More People Need To See This.
A traumatic childhood involving the disappearance of his little sister transforms a man into a sexually repressed masochist. The most striking aspect of "Antenna" is its relentless exhibition of deep psychological torment. This film goes to some really dark places and the lead character is one of the most suffocated, severely disturbed individuals to ever grace the screen. He expresses his anguish by avoiding healthy relationships, engaging in acts of self-mutilation, and meeting a dominatrix. All of these elements are showcased in their full, liberated forms (viewer beware of some rather explicit sexual content) but the film never feels gratuitous or exploitative because the characters and themes are expertly developed from start to finish. The sessions with the dominatrix (who is both sexy and intelligent) are used as an extreme form of psychiatry, and one extended sequence during the latter half represents one of the most amazing exhibitions of gut-wretching psychological torment to ever grace celluloid. This film is worth seeking out for that scene alone. It makes the cry scene in "Good Will Hunting" (1997) look like a grammar school play.
Like many films from Japan, "Antenna" uses a fragmented storyline that demands an attention to detail as well as some deliberation by the viewer to piece things together. (After the opening half hour it shifts to a more lateral, straightforward narrative that's much easier to follow.) At first it's unclear as to what exactly caused the protagonist's serious mental condition, but a combination of flashbacks and dialogue help to properly develop the catalysts so that the viewer fully understands the hows and whys. In addition, the relationship between the other two living family members (the mother and the younger brother) superbly complements the main theme.
This is yet another fantastic example of how the Japanese can use sado-masochistic elements in mature, non-clichéd ways (i.e., no rubber suits or whips) to provide a very strong, interesting psychological study. In some aspects this film reminded me of the coming-of-age S&M film "Moonlight Whispers" (1999), but with even more intensity at its peak moment. Over the past few years I've become extremely impressed at how sex and violence can be used advantageously and artistically to develop characters and provide unique cinematic experiences.
"Antenna" comes strongly recommended, along with other edgy dramatic fare such as "Moonlight Whispers", "Vibrator" (2003), "Shoujyo: An Adolescent" (2001), "Tokyo Fist" (1995), "Strange Circus" (2005), "Harmful Insect" (2001), "Neighbor No. 13" (2005), and others.