[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]
Before the Japan Cuts screening of The Atrocity Exhibition, of which Let’s Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club was a part, a festival programmer came out and made a point of telling the audience that it was not named that because the films were atrocious, but because the themes within the segments were. Which makes sense, given that Let’s Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club can only really be about an atrocity.
Unfortunately, the name of the film is the most interesting part of Let’s Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club. The programmer was wrong, this film is atrocious. The other two segments of The Atrocity Exhibition (The Big Gun and Henge) will be getting their own review later on, because I didn’t feel right tainting their image with
The Atrocity Exhibition: Let’s Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club (Sensei o Ryuzan saseru Ka | 先生を流産させる会)
Directors: Eisuke Naito
There’s nothing misleading about the title of Let’s Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club. It is about a group of five schoolgirls who, upon finding out their teacher is pregnant, make a pact to give her a miscarriage by any means necessary. Given that they are young girls and not particularly clever, they don’t make a cutesy name for themselves (like “The Abortionators” or “The Miscarriage Misfits”). Instead, they write on the wall of their abandoned hideout, “Let’s Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club.” Cute.
This club of five girls is led by a psychopath named Mizuki (Kaori Kobayashi), and when I say psychopath I mean it. The film opens with her grabbing a rabbit, climbing up some steps, and throwing the rabbit onto the ground below. While all of her friends laugh, she shouts at them, because she doesn’t understand the joke. It’s clear from the outset she has no emotions, no empathy, and no traits that make her even the slightest bit human. The other girls follow along with her, although it’s not clear exactly what they think they’re doing. They’re all young, far too young to understand the ramifications of something like giving someone a miscarriage. They’re just going along with what Mizuki wants, and whether that is out of fear or something else I don’t really know.
The reason why I don’t know is because there is absolutely no characterization. The teacher in question (Aki Miyata) is is just a regular teacher, and basically everything about her comes from her (completely understandable) anger about the children who are trying to give her a miscarriage. The children don’t have any personalities other than “Haha, Mizuki just did something that hurt somebody/something, how hilarious,” which is to say they have no personalities whatsoever. Everybody is completely one-tone for the entire film, and the one sudden change by the teacher and also kind of Mizuki at the end makes absolutely no sense. What should have been some kind of disturbing catharsis ended up being a stupid, terrible moment.
Let’s Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club‘s biggest problem is that it is boring. So incredibly boring. It’s kind of amazing that a story about little girls trying to end their teacher’s pregnancy can be so uninteresting. The premise alone should be enough to carry a story like this, but it isn’t, because nothing happens. Because nobody is interesting, seeing them do things is never interesting. Watching the girls concoct their plans isn’t enjoyable or anything of the sort, but it’s also not reprehensible. Even with the knowledge that the film is inspired by true events, I just didn’t care and I wanted something to happen. It could be her miscarriage or it could be the brats getting some comeuppance, but it needed to be something. And it never was, ever. Even when things happened, nothing really happened.
The programmer who introduced The Atrocity Exhibition made a point of the cheapness of the films in question, and it is incredibly obvious that Let’s Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club was created using borrowed equipment from the 1930s. Honestly, in 2012 (or 2011 when the film was made), it’s no longer acceptable to have movies that look that bad. If cheap(ish) DSLRs are good enough for major Hollywood productions, then nobody else really has an excuse to look bad anymore, especially since there are much cheaper DSLRs that still put out great video quality. If something is really pretty, it can distract from a lot of narrative flaws (just look at Avatar), but if something looks ugly, there’s no crutch for a bad story to fall back on. Let’s Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club needed that crutch. Hell, it needed a wheelchair.
And on that note, they should have used a wheelchair for all of the moving shots, because whatever they were using was incredibly unstable. In fact, those were the kinds of things that were the most interesting to see, because of how poor everything was. I like to believe that somebody really cared about this project and that director Eisuke Naito made himself a tripod with wheels or something like that. I imagine that there were a lot of blood, sweat, and tears poured into Let’s Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club. But I don’t care, and I can’t care. Because it’s boring. The movie is bad, unquestionably, but a bad movie can at least be interesting (or maybe funny). But a bad movie that is boring? Ugh. The film’s only saving grace is its 60-minute runtime. As much as I didn’t like it, I can’t bring myself to actually hate it in the way I hate something like Cut. And that’s really the only good thing I can say about it.