Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

“Monster” by Hirokazu Koreeda: Nobility forged in darkness

  • “Monster” is a new film by Hirokazu Koreeda, the creator of the excellent “Thieves”, as well as “Our Little Sister”, “Truth” and “Baby Broker”.
  • The film was awarded for best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival in 2023. At the above-mentioned event, he was also awarded the Special Award – Palma “Queer”.
  • The mother notices disturbing behavior in her son and is convinced that the child is being bullied by his teacher. Is this really the case? Koreeda offers various tropes by telling his story from three different perspectives.

It is not easy to write about one of my favorite directors, and for me the Japanese is one, because then it is difficult to maintain even a bit of objectivity. But the deep humanism, the sometimes irrational faith in other people, the humility and nobility that flow from his films have melted my critical heart for as long as I can remember.

All this can also be seen in “Monster”, although the path to it this time is exceptionally complicated. Because it is undoubtedly the darkest film in his career Hirokazu Koreeda. As well as the most complex in terms of structure, and the elliptical narrative is a bit reminiscent of Asghar Farhadi's cinema. Koreeda gives us information sparingly so that we don't accidentally try to draw hasty conclusions, and if we do, he brings us back to earth by changing our point of view.

Everything in this story begins with a scene of a great fire, which will return many times in the film. The hostess bar is burning, a place where lonely men looking for company seek happiness. Young Minato watches this from a safe distance with his single mother. These two will focus the viewers' attention in the first part of the film. Minato's increasingly strange and self-destructive behavior will seriously disturb the woman, who will try to find the cause. The trail leads to the school and one of the teachers, Mr. Hori. An incident allegedly occurred between the man and the boy, as a result of which the latter was injured.

When we think that it will be a story about violence or abuse of power, and we slowly start to fit the elements together, Koreeda unexpectedly changes the perspective. He gives the field to the teacher, which causes slight disorientation in the viewer. We already had the culprit. Or at least that's what we thought. Moreover, the director will use this technique once again, placing in the center his peer Yori, who is bullied in Minato's class.

You can get lost, especially since Koreeda does not use a simple chronology in his film. However, it has its own purpose, which we will fully appreciate only from the perspective of the entire session. It will also allow us to see that despite the differences mentioned above, it is still a film very clearly signed by the Japanese director. What is probably best seen in the message behind the last scene, but for obvious reasons I cannot reveal it.

There are also few directors who are able to work with young actors in such a balanced and subtle way. What comes to mind is Lukas Dhont, the creator of the festival's revelation from 2022, the film “Close”. Thematically, these two titles have a lot in common. Because “Monster” is also a moving story about the search for identity and the need for tolerance. If it is not vaccinated at a young age, one day it may be too late.


“Monster”, dir. Hirokazu Koreeda, Japan 2023, distributor: Best Film, cinema premiere: May 17, 2024.