Kathryn Hunter bends her gender and every limb of her three-piece-suited body to play a vengeful Japanese businessman in this stylised short, co-written by Colin Teevan and Japanese theatre star Hideki Noda.
It opens like a Chaplin sketch with Hunter as the little guy, Mr Ido, striding wonkily through police tape to find his house sealed off by nincompoop officials and his wife and six-year-old son held hostage by desperate criminal Ogoro (Glyn Pritchard).
But amiable slapstick segues into stylised horror as Ido finds he has 'no aptitude for being a victim' and takes Ogoro's wife and child hostage, beginning an increasingly grisly zero-sum negotiation between the businessman and the killer.
Despite superficial differences, it becomes clear that Ido and Ogoro are so similar that they could use each other as shaving mirrors. They each dismember the other's wife and child, posting the bits to each other in what becomes a compulsive ritual.
For Ogoro's wife (played by Noda, also bending gender) and for his son (agonisingly portrayed by Pritchard), it's death by cuts, each one remorselessly reflected in Miriam Buether's shiny orange stage. But, as this sharp disconcerting drama makes clear, murder is also step-by-step moral suicide.
First seen here in 2006, 'The Bee' adapts 'Mushiriai' by Yasutaka Tsutsui – who, judging by this disturbing fable about power and the death drive, is the Japanese Kafka.
As its supple mood shifts – from comedy, to tragedy, to eroticism – it exposes the sharp edge of cruelty that all these aesthetic modes share. It satirises the enjoyment of violence. But, as Hunter shocks out to a Japanese parody of 'The Sabre Dance', or stylishly finishes off Ido's increasingly willing victims to the tune of 'Madame Butterfly's 'Humming Chorus', it also walks that fetishistic line between pain and pleasure.
First-rate physical performances humanise the slick, horrific moral story. At 75 minutes it seems to hover unfinished in your mind, where it stings like a bee – but also floats like a butterfly.
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Pretty grim & sinister stuff, but SUPERBLY designed and acted out. I only took one star off because I kept anticipating a twist at the end.. a slightly less grim and more hopeful scenario. But the thing ended as miserably as it can be, which is not a problem (I just like happy endings.) I'd love to see a Japanese version of it.. Must be triple times more scary!