Socialist Worker

Lessons in death

by Rob Ferguson
Issue No. 1767

A SCHOOLGIRL collapses backwards to the floor, a knife embedded in her skull. Her terrified classmates cling to the walls. Their former teacher, now murderous overseer, announces 'And today's lesson kill each other!'

This is Japan. The 'nation' has collapsed, millions are unemployed and hundreds of thousands of defiant, disillusioned school students boycott classes. Authority is treated with contempt. The 'high-ups' devise an annual event -one ordinary class of school kids is chosen at random to fight to the death on a remote island until one victor is left.

The film Battle Royale was almost banned in Japan. But this film does not glorify violence. The real culprits and enemies always remain the 'high-ups'. Most of the kids try to resist the compulsion to turn on each other.

Some try to protect one another. Some commit suicide. Some band together against their persecutors. This is a significant, albeit despairing, film that expresses deep revulsion at the corruption and decay of one of the world's greatest powers.

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Sat 22 Sep 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1767
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