Isn't Anyone Alive? ("Ikiterumono wa inainoka ")
It’s a day like any other at Jinsei Medical University. The sun is shining on gossiping students going through their usual routines when news of a nearby train crash starts to spread around campus. Various reports have it that either the driver fell asleep at the helm, fainted or suffered a heart attack. The event remains but a random news occurrence that students, doctors and researchers talk about. Suddenly, random people begin to have stomachaches and coughing fits, which in itself isn’t that alarming. The same cannot be said of them dropping dead mere seconds later, however. This perfect day capsizes into a state of surprise, fear, inexplicable phenomena and helplessness as everyone becomes susceptible to a brutal and sudden death. The campus is filled with people crossing paths with one another, whether they be on their way to the hospital, which unfortunately offers no solution, or simply to find a fellow living soul, if only to keep oneself from facing instant death alone.
ISN’T ANYONE ALIVE? announces the feature-length return of Gakuryu Ishii (previously known as Sogo Ishii — BURST CITY, ELECTRIC DRAGON 80,000 V, ANGEL DUST) to the director’s chair, all while exploring different ground. Curious spectators will surely be satisfied by this uncommon cinematic pearl whose ‘nobody’s safe’ premise remains constantly surprising. Initially a play belonging to the theatre of the absurd, ISN’T ANYONE ALIVE? was adapted by its creator Shiro Maeda and brilliantly transposed to the screen by Ishii. While the initial idea may seem strange and inherently depressing, the end result isn’t devoid of laughs as succulent dark humour steadily permeates the unfolding events. The film relies heavily on its exquisite dialogue as many of its characters insist on rambling nonsense even though the end is near — nobody escapes their own idiosyncrasies, not even with their last breath. The poignant picture’s pensive and reflective atmosphere is not tainted when it is admirably joined to offbeat music, their juxtaposition instead creating astonishing results. A simultaneously realist, sober, sad and humorous vision of the end of the world, it is an apocalyptic variant reminiscent of Gus Van Sant’s ELEPHANT. Come and admire its singularly surprising outcome before it’s too late.
— Patrick Lambert