The whole time while watching Shohei Imamura’s Vengeance Is Mine, I couldn’t help but think ‘Man, there could be essays written about this film.’ Within the film’s first three minutes, we are able to get properly introduced to Iwao Enokizu, but far from understanding him. We know he’s done something bad. (He’s in a police car that seem to have the entire force following him.) The date is clearly shown to us in white letters. This let’s us know that something prolific is happening.
Despite this, Iwao sings and jokes around. We begin to get a glimpse at what kind of man he is. We go back about 79 days earlier where Iwao’s killing spree begins. We aren’t really given any reason for these brutal deaths and the shock of it really sets the tone to the film. While on the run, we witness a series of flashbacks that help us slowly understand this killer. We attempt to feel some sort of sympathy for him but after our initial reaction to him we’re unable to.
In one situation, he poses as a bail bondsman who meets up with the family of a girl who has just been sentenced. He suavely pretends to be the real thing and after a few meetings with the girl’s mother, he dupes her into giving him money in order to see her daughter again. The casualness and deceptiveness of his actions are perhaps more terrifying than the murders themselves.Through the film, he meets a series of people who he befriends, tricks, swindles, betrays, and kills in order to get what he wants. He does so without remorse or second thought.
Vengeance Is Mine is perhaps one of the best studies of a serial killer I’ve ever seen, but much like reading my Psychology text book, I’ve learned nothing. No matter how deeply we try to delve into the mind of Iwao, we still come up short and are unable to fully understand his actions; and that is the beauty of it.