Udine 2014 Review: THE SNOW WHITE MURDER CASE Gives A Stunning New Angle To Familiar Thriller Formula

Patryk Czekaj, Contributing Writer
A young and beautiful office lady has been brutally murdered in a national park near Tokyo. With no suspects in sight, the mysterious case seems to be barely moving forward, until an ambitious, ramen-loving journalist seeking publicity starts throwing accusations without comprehending his material and in consequence sparks social media frenzy that almost immediately takes over the entire Japanese Twitterverse.

Known for his trademark cutting humor and zany twists, Nakamura Yoshihiro possesses the unique ability to puzzle and entertain the audiences with wonderfully creative and perfectly engaging stories. Although at its core The Snow White Murder Case follows a seemingly conventional murder-mystery plot, it's no less of a brainteaser than The Foreign Duck, The Native Duck and God in a Coin Locker or Golden Slumber, perhaps his two trickiest creations. What makes the film so gripping and powerful, however, is the concept that the narrative is based on. Minato Kanae's 2012 novel of the same name translates beautifully into cinematic language and, while it's not as polished and dark as Confessions (also based on Minato's book), packs enough memorable scenes, admirable performances, clever turns of events, and point-of-view changes to keep the suspense and excitement alive for 126 minutes.

A modernized variation on the whodunit theme, The Snow White Murder Case pays no mind to police investigation, and concentrates on netizens and their attitude towards the deadly affair instead. Various tweets and re-tweets keep flying all over the screen at a confusingly fast pace and expose the judgmental nature of people who can easily hide behind their fanciful nicknames. Perhaps the two remarks that perfectly capture the essence of the picture are: "Internet exposes the truth" and "Internet accuses falsely". It's only ironic that such drastically different opinions in the context of media control don't really exclude each other.

Though Nakamura criticizes the mainstream media for their lack of any relevant journalistic code in a very straightforward and sarcastic way, he also willfully reveals its frighteningly manipulative power. In a country controlled by influential media outlets a few ridiculously one-sided and incompetently edited TV reports can make a person's life a living hell.

That's exactly what happens to Miki (Inoue Mao), who becomes an overnight Twitter sensation and the primary suspect in the killing of her colleague, the impossibly cute but perfidious Noriko (Nanao). Indisputably a star of the cosmetics company beloved for its signature Snow White soap, Noriko dominates the office scene and without much effort steals Miki's boyfriend, a situation that in turn hints at jealousy as the main reason of the grizzly murder.

And that motive probably wouldn't even be mentioned if not for one social-media-addicted TV reporter. Being a man of questionable ethics, Yuji (Ayano Go) doesn't give a second thought to the content he shares on Twitter not only with his friends, but obviously also with many random users. As history shows, a single thought - or tweet nowadays -- can be the cause of a sudden and unstoppable wave of comments with enough force to change the course of action.

With the help of a former girlfriend (Renbutsu Misako) Yuji designs a perfect plan to make his name recognizable, but doesn't consider what might happen if the allegations prove to be wrong. Thorough a series of interviews conducted with people from Noriko and Miki's environments the film presents differing viewpoints on the situation.

Minato's novels tend to have a strong female presence, and The Snow White Murder Case is no exception. The girls here are outright envious of each other and, when given a chance, resolve private issues in front of a camera for the whole country to see. Their statements might not be true, but what can be wiped out from a person's mind can be hardly deleted from the Internet.

What gives the plot an emotional backstory are the relevant but rather unexciting flashbacks about Miki and her dear childhood friend Yuko (Kanjiya Shihori). The film slows down for some time in order to ponder the value of friendship as seen through the two women's eyes. Then again, it also adds additional layers to Miki's personality, making her a vulnerable creature that under certain circumstances could be forced to commit a crime.

Once a TV drama actress, Inoue Mao continues her wonderful affair with more serious material and gives the most evocative performance of the picture. When conflicting facts arrive, it's equally sorry to feel sorry for her, as it is to consider her guilty. Ayano Go's spotlight fades away as the story progresses, but his initial determination and Twitter know-how are remarkable, whereas Nanao's film debut certainly won't go unnoticed, and not just because of her lovable smile and stunning figure.

Exceptionally well-written and skillfully lensed, The Snow White Murder Case is definitely one of the most compelling crime thrillers to come out of Japan in the last few years. Beyond being a valuable social commentary on media-obsessed world, it's a picture that rightfully touts Nakamura's versatility.
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