The fact that Cure deals
with psychological subject matter is ironic. The film is so expertly
layered with themes and metaphors that it merits critical analysis
rather than a simple review.
The story revolves around Detective
Takabe (Koji Yakusho) who spends most of his time caring for his
mentally ill wife (Anna Nakagawa). Her symptoms include leaving
the washing machine spinning while empty, and frequently getting
lost on her way to familiar places. Takabe becomes obsessed with
solving a recent outbreak of murders committed by seemingly upstanding
citizens who have each carved an "X" into the necks
of their victims. None of the perpetrators have denied responsibility,
but Takabe is having difficulty establishing motive. All of the
murderers appear to have been very calm during the act, and none
of them remember what triggered them to kill in the first place.
It turns out that a "trigger"
is exactly what caused them to kill. A young man named Mamiya
(Masato Hagiwara) is arrested near the scene of the latest murder
and it is soon discovered that he is using hypnotic suggestion
to manipulate people to kill.
Takabe's friend, psychiatrist Dr. Sakuma (Tsuyoshi Ujiki), tells
Takabe that it is possible for such a thing to transpire only
iif the person already possesses the capacity deep within themselves.
This appears to be the main theme that Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa
wanted to explore in Cure.
Mamiya is a student of Psychology
and in particular, the works of 19th Century hypnotist cum occultist
Mesmer. After years of sequestered study and animal experimentation,
Mamiya has finally unraveled the secret of Mesmer. Every time
Mamiya hypnotizes someone, he asks them "Who are you?"
He's like the ultimate therapist forcing people to touch the suppressed
part of their psyche in order to "cure" them.
Socially speaking, the overall
effect of people breaking free from their repression is the breakdown
of society, as apparently a great many people have the predilection
to kill. Is Kurosawa saying that repression is a good thing? Perhaps.
That's what makes Cure a modern masterpiece. It forces
the viewer to think on a level much deeper than the run-of-the-mill
thriller. The fact that most of the hypnotic triggers involve
the natural elements of fire or water is another rich detail designed
to illustrate the true nature of human kind.
Mesmer lives on through Mamiya either
symbolically or literally depending on how the viewer perceives
Mamiya's amnesia. When Takabe is finally allowed to be alone with
Mamiya the two bond in a strange sort of way. It's clear that
Mamiya has used his hypnotic abilities on Takabe, but instead
of making him kill, he chooses him for a purpose which is only
revealed in the final scene of the film. Why does he choose Takabe?
Is it because his wife suffers from an ailment similar to Mamiya's?
Maybe. It's more likely because he's different. When Mamiya asks
"Who are you?" Takabe doesn't shut down in a veil of
denial like all the others before him. He opens up to Mayima and
admits to him that his wife is a burden to him and that his life
is full of frustration. Mamiya is fascinated by this (as he is
by people in general since he can't remember his own identity)
and the paths of the two men become parallel.
Besides all the wonderful elements
touched on here, there's also a lot of good acting, great visuals,
and an incredibly creepy soundtrack. Cure just might compel
you to "go in deeper" and search out more of Kyoshi
Kurasawa's work. (Magicvoice 2002)