Takashi Miike – “Box” Analysis
September 3, 2010 § 18 Comments
With the compilation Three… Extremes, we see very specifically how each director believes a horror movie should “behave” in a sense. With Fruit Chan, you may interpet an overall eeriness and the building of suspense with numerous but vague clues as to what is transpiring. With Park Chan-Wook, maybe he assesses the genre as something that can be self-aware and still manage to shock you. But with Takashi Miike, I feel that, in this case at least, he believes in the theme of silence and stillness, which explains firstly the hollowness of the soundtrack, in turn giving more impression to such sounds as the subtle music box and the shrill setting ablaze of the tent. Secondly, this explains the very slow pacing, giving time to feel the impact of each piece of new information you see. He also generally avoided usual horror elements and only retrieves them sporadically like a trickster.
Clearly the most apparent concept of “Box” is the blurring of reality and dreams. Throughout the first 38 minutes, it’s the something you try to decipher, but the ending tells you that it was all a dream. Does this make the whole movie a useless exercise in storytelling? I find completely the opposite to be true for the ending reveals a key element; the two girls are conjoined in reality. That will be indulged in soon. Color also plays a pivotal role: you see Kyoko (the main girl who grew up) in white first as she wakes up, but then after the title shot you see her at her job with a blue scarf and blue dress. The man that meets her there is her editor, Yoshii, who is the same actor playing Higata in the tent. She touches Yoshii’s face where Higata gets the scar, tying those two characters together. This is the first dream level.
The title may allude to the story being connected by boxes, even outside of the main two. However, perhaps the boxes are secondary to the final twist. What do the Siamese twins represent? They are always together in reality, but during the dream(s) they are not only separate but completely separate spirits. They still share the same face but feel different emotions. In the second dream level, Shoko is favored by Higata even though they performed identically, gives her a blue necklace, and the next few sequences guide you to believe that Kyoko develops an inferiority complex, leading to her accidentally killing Shoko in the blue box.
However, there’s no reason for Kyoko to feel inferior to Shoko. She’s the main part of the real body, or at least the larger part. Perhaps the final line that “our dreams differ slightly” is meant to be ironic. Kyoko is allegedly to be the one dreaming, but what if some of it is Shoko instead? Kyoko dream ends horribly for herself. Shoko seems to think that Kyoko wants to kill her, and justifies it by dreaming that she was actually better than her but was Higata’s victim because Kyoko was the one who was jealous.
In fewer words: your archetypal projection of jealousy. To Shoko, Kyoko is the one who can walk around. Shoko merely “floats” on Kyoko’s body (hence the floating in the stairwell, oh how daft). So, perhaps their dreams sort of spliced together for an instant, which has been known to happen with Siamese twins. The most logical example is when Shoko stared at and then ignored Higata suffocating Kyoko; that’s where it’s most evident the dreams blended together for a bit so that Shoko had her own reprise. Shoko’s projection of herself in Kyoko would explain why in the dreams Kyoko is connected with blue but in real life blue represents Shoko (there is also another point in the beginning where Kyoko says “The box is too small, I can’t breathe”, which could be an indication of this).
Back in the first dream level, you see Kyoko standing still in a crowd of people outside, and she’s wearing Higata’s clothes and her own mask, and you see the editor approaching. The next cut shows Kyoko in her previous scarf outfit, why? Since it’s a dream, Miike could’ve used an atypical way to juxtapose the relationship of Yoshii and Higata. This relationship is strange because both characters eventually appear in the same dream level, but it seems like at first Yoshii is relatable as a more diffident mentor compared to Higata’s rigidness, and Yoshii was brought in from real life (he is the same editor at the closing scene) to subdue Higata. When Higata appears in the first dream level, his presence overwhelms Kyoko so much that Yoshii is erased.
Higata’s grave digging occurs on the first dream level subconsciously where Kyoko is never aware of it. In this same exact area of that decadent tree you see a shot of the tent during a show, eventually followed by Shoko outside the burning tent, which is foreshadowing to her box “incident”, and you also see old Kyoko collapse in the same spot when nothing is around but the tree that tied all the shots together. That is its only significance.
Once Kyoko awakes once more, wearing white, this is the scene you find out the truth about her, and you must return to the Siamese twin thesis. In Kyoko’s dream, she subconsciously wants to be not only separate but further the notion through murder to be completely alone in her own skin. This is a very practical conclusion to why they exist separately and as different types of people.
I think the less you try to analyze “Box” and the more subtleties you notice, the clearer a lot of the sequences become. The symbolism of the boxes becomes symbolic of captivation, and the bloody dart was in old Kyoko’s hand while the music box plays right before she saw dead Shoko in the building, which I think is just more foreshadowing that she was going to kill her. The burial, since it was in the same location as the tent, was just to finish off the remains of Shoko in Kyoko’s mind. Higata’s mask was to further emphasize Yoshii’s second face, let alone Yoshii’s real existence. And people say this was the worst of the Three… Extremes… silly humans