CERTIFIED WEIRD: Hiroshi Teshigahara’s “Pitfall” a surreal fight for workers rights

Pitfall remains in between life and death, not fully existing in reality but not fading away into the tether. It’s a film with grand themes of abused labor in a villainous, soulless industry, while playing in the avant-garde of the afterlife. Director Hiroshi Teshigahara shows his personality in the surrealism and tells the majority of this story within this mood but keeping the narrative grounded in real world struggle. In his first collaboration with legendary novelist Kobo Abe, Pitfall is a film that toils with utter existentialism, and unfair and unjust treatment of human beings but then goes even further. It explores a culture of overworking, lack of freedom if one chooses to go against their company, and the complete alienation of the human condition.

Outside of the haunting ghost story of our friend the miner played by Hisashi Igawa, the film is characterized mainly by the man in a white suit (Kunie Tanaka). Mystery follows this man as he keys in on Igawa’s character after he leaves his employer, and he comes face-to-face with his destiny. The supremely clean white suit reflects the sun like a mirror, painting a figure that feels otherworldly. His presence in Abe’s story as a watchful eye and even intermittent photographer presents the world Teshigahara establishes as a sort of purgatory.

The scattered, disconnected score of avant-garde composer Toshi Ichiyanagi and partner Yūji Takahashi, makes the more grounded elements feel uneasy. Teshigahara’s balance of tone is incredible, showing the irrationality of the situation through the bizarre style. It’s unorthodox characters mixing in with surreal direction and the world building feels lived-in despite the fantastical elements because of this variety of mood and tone.

The Abe writing is nuanced and focused. It’s no masterpiece like Woman in the Dunes, but has a similar style of narrative writing that blends so many moods into one beautiful melting pot. His writing is unbelievably engaging because of this emotional character detail, as we’re engaged with Abe’s eccentricities and Teshigahara’s visual style.

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