The Neighbour No. 13 (2005)

Directed by
6/10 - just so much meaningless violence, really.
Reviewed by Simon on 2012-05-22

"A combination of OLDBOY and FIGHT CLUB", proclaims the dvd case rather randomly... whilst I can see which aspects of those films would invite comparison, they're minor details - overall this is very much a Japanese film, more like a combination of Takashi Miike (who has a cameo appearance) and Shinya Tsukamoto... but again, only in certain regards.

The plot: A guy who is bullied as a kid develops a split personality, with his 'dark side' manifesting himself as a rather unpleasant man who especially dislikes his bullying neighbour.

It does thicken somewhat though, and it is quite unclear exactly what is real and what is imagined even at the end of the film.

The split personality aspect is where the Fight Club reference comes in, I presume, and the OLDBOY reference must refer to the occasional shocking violence/gore and the general concept of revenge. All 3 films can also claim heavily stylised cinematography as a binding theme. None of these attributes are by any means unique to these 3 films though, and I'm sure countless other films could equally be used as reference points for THE NEIGHBOUR NO. 13 - I was thinking of Ichi The Killer and GEMINI earlier, for instance. Miike and Tsukamoto are definitely more appropriate comparisons than Park Chan-Wook and David Fincher... the pacing of the film is distinctly Japanese (i.e. glacial), as is the fact that the film is rather open-ended, leaving many questions unanswered. Of course, an alternative interpretation of these observations could simply be that the film is boring and confusing... I'm not sure I would dispute such a description.

The film is certainly visually impressive - some great lighting and cinematography, and some great sound design too for that matter. Aspects of it are also very interesting, but I was never really engaged beyond that level. The film seems too deliberately obtuse - in particular, I never felt that I was getting inside the head of any of the characters. Given that the film is basically all about what's going on inside the character's heads, the fact that I really had no idea is definitely a problem. "But why?", I found myself asking on more than a few occasions... and though the film offers quite a lot of factual information (eventually), I didn't feel any real psychological understanding or empathy. The characters didn't "ring true" to me - I didn't buy into them or relate to them, and therefore didn't care too much about any of the things that happened to them. Without that it's just so much meaningless violence, really.

Crew

Director