With “Freeze Me”, I’m reasonably certain writer/director Takashi Ishii is trying to make a statement about the hardships of being a woman in contemporary Japan, but the problem is that the film just isn’t very good. Harumi Inoue stars as Chihiro, a bank office worker who, 5 years earlier, was raped in her small hometown. Now in Tokyo and engaged to be married, Chihiro’s life has never looked better, and she is practically beaming from her upcoming marriage to co-worker Nogami (Shunsuke Matsuoka).
Things take a turn for the worst when Hirokawa, one of the men who had raped Chihiro 5 years ago, shows up at her apartment with video footage and photos of the rape. Under Hirokawa’s threat that he will show everyone photos of the rape, Chihiro reluctantly goes along with the hood, and is forced to become his sex toy once more. Chihiro later resolves to kill Hirokawa, and does so. She then freezes his body in a freezer (thus the title) to hide it. But there’s a problem: Hirokawa has already made plans with the other 2 rapists to join him at Chihiro’s, and they’re on their way…
As mentioned, I’m sure Ishii has a message about how hard it is to be a woman in Japan. Still, the whole situation concerning Chihiro’s rape is a little hard to get used to. After being raped, she didn’t tell anyone, but escaped to Tokyo to start a new life instead. This is reasonable, because most women are too ashame to go public with their rape. So when Hirokawa shows up, he expects her to fully cooperate with another go-around. When she shows signs of reluctance (notice I didn’t say “downright indignation”) he threatens her with the photos. This is enough for Chihiro to allow Hirokawa to live at her apartment, cause enough trouble at work that she gets fired, and nonchalantly severs Chihiro’s ties to Nogami. As the boyfriend, Nogami proves to be just as unforgiving as Chihiro thought. Learning about her rape (Hirokawa flippantly mentions it when Nogami comes over), Nogami flees her life.
Which leads me to the film’s biggest problem. Chihiro is not the brightest bulb in the bunch, and as a result I had a hard time having to keep sympathizing with her plight. When she first spots Hirokawa in the lobby of her apartment building, she runs back to her apartment; he follows and forces his way in. This doesn’t seem to be the smartest move in the world, especially when there were other people in the lobby. And for the next 10 minutes afterward, as Hirokawa makes himself at home in her apartment, Chihiro seems to be suffering through what can only be called a brain freeze, because she shows as much intelligence and survival instinct as a moth.
While it is probably unfair to do so, and most likely very politically incorrect, I continue to have tremendous problems with the way the Chihiro character is written. Maybe it’s because a man has written the screenplay, but Chihiro’s actions are not very believable, not to mention lacking in any intelligence. How does Chihiro kill Hirokawa? She hits him over the head with a water bottle while he’s taking a bath. Yes, you heard me right. She’s in a kitchen full of knives and other lethal utensil when she realizes she has to kill Hirokawa, but instead of grabbing a knife she grabs a friggin’ water bottle. As expected, getting hit in the head with a water bottle doesn’t exactly put Hirokawa down immediately, and he nearly kills her before she can finally get him.
After having killed and frozen two rapists (another one name Kojima shows up later), and going about life stuffing her frozen food around the bodies as if they were mere inconveniences, why is Chihiro still so ineffective when Baba, the third rapist, shows up? She reverts back to the frightened and brainless woman who had allowed Hirokawa to blackmail her days ago. Where is the emotional and physical growth of a woman who has already committed two murders? Apparently there is none, because she’s still a little weakling who gets raped by Baba and puts up with him for days before, once again, deciding she better whack him.
Unlike the French film “Irreversible”, “Freeze Me” avoids a lot of graphic rape scenes. This despite the fact that all 3 men rape Chihiro multiple times. All of the rape takes place offscreen, which is a good thing because there is really no need to see them in all their disgusting detail. Leave it to the Japanese to show the French what it means to have taste. I don’t have to see a woman being anally raped for 10 straight minutes to “get” that rape is bad.
“Freeze Me” is not the most entertaining film, and its subject matter doesn’t lend itself to such a mindset, but that doesn’t mean the film has to be so…tedious. The movie pretty much breaks down into 3 separate encounters between Chihiro and her returning rapists. They show up, scare her, force themselves into her life, rapes her, and she decides to kill him. Next!
There are few gory scenes, even though there is a lot of blood. For the most part Ishii likes to crop lead Harumi Inoue’s face in close-up as he throws a bucket of blood at her. I’m sure there’s a message to the movie, it’s just that the whole thing isn’t all that interesting and I started to drift away when the third guy showed up.
Takashi Ishii (director) / Takashi Ishii (screenplay)
CAST: Harumi Inoue …. Chihiro
Shingo Tsurumi …. Kojima
Kazuki Kitamura …. Hirokawa
Shunsuke Matsuoka …. Nogami
Naoto Takenaka …. Baba