Shinji Aoyama's "Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachtani?" reverberates with screeching sounds but can't find any emotional resonance. Jumbling futuristic plague drama, pic goes on aural attack mode so often that auds may wish a mute button was installed on their armrests. Beautifully rich lensing won't be enough to overcome "fests only" warning signs.

A patience-testing parable more akin to the muddled “Desert Moon” than helmer’s acclaimed “Eureka,” Shinji Aoyama’s “Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachtani?” reverberates with screeching sounds but can’t find any emotional resonance. Jumbling futuristic plague drama with half-hearted detective tribute, pic goes on aural attack mode so often that auds may wish a mute button was installed on their armrests. Beautifully rich lensing in the service of a maddeningly elliptical tale won’t be enough to overcome “fests only” warning signs.

Late autumn, 2015: The world is in the grips of a mysterious virus, nicknamed the Lemming Syndrome because those infected develop a depression so strong they commit suicide. Musicians Mizui (the ubiquitous Tadanobu Asano) and Asuhara (Masaya Nakahara), of the post punk group Stepin Fetchit, may have found a way to alleviate the disease’s symptoms through dissonant sound.

Business exec Miyagi (Yasutaka Tsutsui), whose granddaughter Hana (Aoi Miyazaki) is suffering from the illness, hires detective Natsuishi (Masahiro Toda) to locate the two musicians in the hope they can at least temporarily stop her urge toward self-destruction. Climactic scene resembles nothing so much as a tedious music vid, with an equal amount of superficiality disguised as catharsis.

The cast, all memorable in other roles, makes little impression, but they’re not given much to work with. Strong suit is undoubtedly Masaki Tamra’s attractive visuals, from early scenes on a wind-swept beach to empty autumnal landscapes, but they’re put at the service of a weak script that fails to develop.

Even pic’s title, coming from Jesus’ words on the cross, carries more than a whiff of over-reaching pretension. Strong noises, performed by Asano and Nakahara, may help cure Lemming Syndrome, but could engender murderous thoughts among auds.

Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachtani?

Japan

Production

A Tokyo FM, VAP and Rumble Fish presentation of a Rumble Fish production. (International sales: Wild Bunch, Paris.) Produced by Takenori Sento. Directed, written by Shinji Aoyama.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Masaki Tamra; music, Hiroyuki Nagashima; production designer, Takeshi Shimizu; set decorator, Yuichiro Endo; costume designer, Hisano Ogura; sound (DTS), Nobuyuki Kikuchi; associate producer, Kumi Sato. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 17, 2005. Running time: 107 MIN.

With

Tadanobu Asano, Aoi Miyazaki, Okada Mariko, Masaya Nakahara, Yasutaka Tsutsui, Masahiro Toda.
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