A Record of Sweet Murder is a lurid psychodrama and mockumentary film by controversial Japanese director Koji Shiraishi. This is a director whose name many western audiences may only recognise due to the controversy of his earlier film ‘Grotesque’. The film failed to be classified by the BBFC due to the harrowing and graphic depictions of sexual violence. Continuing within this horror sub-genre, Shiraishi creates a found footage style film that consists of one continuous 86-minuet take. The long take draws on parallels in Hitchcock’s films, as well as other found footage horror films such as The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. As the audience we are able to get an exclusive view of what would be an unseen situation.
The film begins with what appears to be an opportunity for an exclusive interview with an old friend. However, in true thriller style, it ends up being a life threatening and nauseating experience for journalist Soyeon. Childhood friend Sangjoon, who has recently escaped from a mental institution, has contacted Soyeon. Over the phone he explains that he has murdered 18 people and promises to reveal everything to her in an exclusive interview. However he wants the interview to be recorded and with one strict condition; the cameraman has to be Japanese. The recording aims to prove that he isn’t delusional, yet this very candid manner of documenting the event only highlights to the audience the extreme and cold-blooded nature of his actions.
The setting for the interview is a grimy apartment in a run down neighbourhood in Seoul. After arriving in the dilapidated apartment, Soyeon is confronted by a frantic and knife wielding Sangjoon. Immediately it is made clear that Sangjoon is not content with his previous murders. The audience begins to wonder why he is not content and why he has committed these abhorrent crimes, this understanding of why is what underpins the entirety of the film. Sangjoon wants to find salvation through pure love, this deep-rooted obsession started after the death of his childhood friend. Hysterically he tells Soyeon that a higher force has told him that in order to find this sacred pure love he must subject innocent people to violence and even death in order to prove that pure love exists.
The intensity of the situation progresses throughout the film and as a viewer you are left feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the violence and morals behind Sangjoon’s actions. The shaking camera adds to the panic and hysteria, yet at some points the camera remains still. The cameraman appears to have become almost calm and unfased by the brutal realities in front of him. This inconsistency in filming is easily noticeable to the audience due to the one take approach.
While Record may make western audiences feel uncomfortable it still stands as a mellow and toned down version of this popular sub-genre within Japanese films. Due to this, I believe that we will not see films like Record in UK cinemas any time soon.