Cannes 2023: Change of Perspectives

"Monster" by Kore-eda Hirokazu
Monster (Kore-eda Hirokazu)

Monster (© Suenaga Makoto)

In his films, the Japanese filmmaker Kore-eda Hirokazu repeatedly addresses the question: What makes a family? In "Shoplifters", the film with which he won the Palme d'Or in 2018, the 'family' is a ragtag bunch of social misfits, adults and children, who live by shoplifting but have built a loving microcosm among themselves.

In his new film "Monster", it is a single mother who no longer understands her 11-year-old son Minato. He behaves strangely, comes home from school with bruises and a bloody ear. Minato claims that his teacher, Mr. Hori, did that to him. Outraged, the mother confronts the headmistress about the incidents and demands an apology.

The film opens with a fire in a high-rise building that houses a so-called hostess club. We do not find out how the fire started. Supposedly, the teacher Hori frequented the club. After some time, the high-rise fire reappears and the film changes perspective. We are back at the starting point and the events are told from the teacher's point of view.  Suddenly everything is completely different. The teacher turns out to be a committed and understanding, the alleged 'violence' results from a misunderstanding.
A little later, there is a third change of perspective, this time it is the headmistress' point of view that we follow. Circumstances that seemed clear before suddenly appear in a different light. It seems that the friendship with another boy from the class provides an explanation for Minato's behaviour. Kore-eda refrains from demonstrative clues, but links the different perspectives with casual elegance. This does not provide a solution; on the contrary, the boy's reactions will remain a mystery until the end. A mystery that accompanies the audience even after leaving the cinema.