We Are Little Zombies (Wî â Ritoru Zonbîzu)
Eccentricity and aesthetic are poured liberally over Makoto Nagahisa’s wildly imaginative directorial debut, which follows four recently orphaned teens on their madcap journey through an ephemeral fame and their respective reactions to loss. As well as premiering his work in Berlin, Nagahisa submitted his barnstorming debut to Sundance, where he won the festival’s short film grand jury prize in 2017.
Hikaro, Ikuku, Ishi and Takemura are introduced to the audience – and each other – outside a crematorium, their parents lost, and their feelings numb. Led by Hikaro, the dispassionate, absurdist protagonist and part-time narrator, the four set about unintentionally recapturing a human touch in a digital world. Bonding first through gaming, then, eventually, through forming a band: the Little Zombies. Their dreary, uncaring outlook on life is in direct contrast to the exuberant presentation of their story Nagahisa creates.
As the film progresses we are told of the kids’ various upbringings through the prism of Hikaro, acting as narrator. We are treated to a cornucopia of cuts, edits and filming techniques. Innumerable camera angles (POV, over the shoulder, through a drinking glass, etc.), flashbacks, monochrome scenes, fast motion, slow motion, dream sequences and animation are interspersed among one another at will by Nagahisa, with a retro arcade game soundtrack tied to the action for good measure.
Having made a name for himself through his commercial work and directing of zany music videos, the filmmaker suffers understandable growing pains with his first attempt at a feature-length movie. Zeal and colour don’t make up for a neat structure and substance, something this film often lacks.
It’s fair to ask whether all this is visual overkill. An exhausting 120 minute running time is exacerbated by an adherence to a relentlessly paced narrative. The pace and video-game-esque styling of Nagahisa’s storytelling do eventually wear thin, but stop short of making We Are Little Zombies a rainbow-coloured monotony.
We Are Little Zombies (Wî â Ritoru Zonbîzu) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.