Hiroshi is a medical student plagued with amnesia after a road accident that took the life of his girlfriend Ryoko. Settling back in his parents’ apartment with his mind a blank sheet, he sleepwalks through the days like a ghost. The discovery of an anatomy textbook rekindles memories of his devotion to his studies and as the recollections of his girlfriend slowly start to flow back, he decides to re-enter university and pick up where he left off. When the body on the class dissection table turns out to be that of Ryoko, Hiroshi starts a feverish search for their shared past, hoping to find what was lost by digging it up inside her preserved corpse. In his latest film, Shinya Tsukamoto has left the urban cybernetic body horror of his earlier work behind to focus on the human body as the starting point for all our aspirations and interactions, a theme he already explored in Snake of June. With Vital he digs deeper, past the skin and into the body to search for our individual personality. The movie has a deep emotional resonance and Tsukamoto achieves this without surrendering an inch of his trademark intensity. It’s not the noise, the machine-gun editing or the violence, but the beauty that will affect us. Tadanobu Asano (Electric Dragon 80,000 V, Zatoichi, Dead End Run) is magnificent as Hiroshi.

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