With Haruhiko Kato, Kumiko Aso, Koyuki.
Japan, 2001, 35mm, color, 119 min.
Japanese with English subtitless.
Print source: Magnolia Pictures
If one were to claim, following Walter Benjamin, that the continual bombardment of Internet data strips the world of its ambient aura, one could perhaps find no better audiovisual counterargument than Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo, released as Pulse in the United States. A dreadful, otherworldly atmosphere simmers in this relentless grey film as ghosts cry for help on computer monitors and telephones, begging for company. Its living characters are compelled to “live into” ghostly circuits (Kairo is literally translated as “circuit”) by eliminating their all-too-corporeal bodies. Before Facebook and Skype became a brash means for warding off loneliness, Kairo presented a world in which disembodied anomie cried out to embodied anomie, begging for company in its never-endingly networked purgatory. What could be more horrifying—or relatable—than that?