We fall because we’re alive, an adage that resonated throughout the film as a drunken warning by herald Sakamoto to protagonist Dazai as he set off in his plagiarism. Sakamoto returned later in the story to provide another clichéd piece of writerly advice: Cut yourself open, spill your guts for the world to see, and with that you will make idiots understand your art– thus creating a masterpiece. And so we have the building blocks for No Longer Human, this time Suzie wasn’t around to accompany me.
As an author, I gravitated towards this idol drama not to find answers but to find a sense of realization. Dazai was an author facing a terrible case of writer’s block. What resulted was Dazai’s journey following the tedious tortured writer trope: alcoholic, illicit relationships, and that can’t seem to get a break on writing a novel plot point. Instead of bleeding for their art, both chose to bleed in their life and let the droplets trickle down to their writing. What resulted was Ningen Shikaku for Dazai after an agonizing two hours of womanizing, drinking, and ruining everything he held dear.
The film is beautiful to watch– both its cast and magnificent set pieces. However, not all the pulchritude in this world could save the lack of the performers’ range. Each set piece with remarkable precision failed to contrast the lack of the performers’ pain. Though, I quite enjoyed the Yukio Mishima cameo (possibly the best scene of the film). Despite that, the filmmaker did her best to provide an entertainingly dark piece that flip-flopped between comedy and tragedy– the same way life unfolds. The script was well written and edited in a way where the audience could infer the turmoil of character interiority in the notes left behind, water imagery, and sakura falling as if it signified the existential angst the performers failed to telegraph. It was an entertaining attempt, and finished with a satisfying conclusion.
Vincent Ternida is an emerging author whose pieces have appeared in Ricepaper Magazine, Dark Helix Press, and was longlisted for CBC Short Story Prize in 2019. Ternida’s first novella, The Seven Muses of Harry Salcedo, was published by Asian Canadian Writer’s Workshop. He currently has a collection of short stories in development. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.