Lesson of the Evil
Original Title: 悪の教典
Director: Miike Takashi
Hasumi Seiji (Ito Hideaki) is the most popular teacher in school. Full of smiles and enthusiasm, he instructs the students in English class. He is also a homeroom teacher, being charged with about thirty students under his care. He is loved so much by his students, they all call him by the cute nickname Hasumin.
Unbeknownst to everyone, his charm masks his true nature — that of a sociopath. Having killed his parents at a young age, and had taking part in a killing spree during his time in the United States with his best friend, Hasumi is quite intelligent and thorough in his “craft”.
Unlucky for the world around him, Hasumi decides that the students, and even the teachers at school are the cause of all sorts of problems in society. Cheating on tests, bullying, student and teacher relationships, shoplifting, fights…the list goes on. But something clicks inside Hasumi’s head. Interpreting his actions as an order from God, he sets out to remedy each and every one of the problems in his class and at the school. With his shotgun, of course.
First of all, let’s just lay this out on the tables: this is a Miike Takashi film. That means the film will be dark, twisted, and will make you think about what you have just watched long after you have finished it. If there was a current film that could encompass and showcase the dark depths of Miike’s mind, Lesson of the Evil could easily be that.
A standout in Lesson of the Evil is Ito Hideaki, who plays the lead Hasumi Seiji. Ito just lives his role, and he plays it to the fullest. He is so charming as a teacher than it’s easy to imagine oneself having a blast as one of his students. He is so charming, that once his switch flips, you will probably still want to cheer for him.
That’s what makes this film so intense. Not only is Hasumi the protagonist, in the sense that the story is mainly told from his point of view, but he is also the antagonist – the villain everyone runs away from. With Ito’s performance and charisma, it’s very difficult to pick a side to cheer for. But rather, the character of Hasumi is so engrossing and so entangling that one can’t be helped but be fascinated.
The film dives into Hasumi’s persona in interesting ways. One is a series of flashbacks/memories of his early days of killing, showcased in a series of vignettes, and accented with the song “Mack the Knife” – a song about a killer and his murderous escapades. Different versions of the legendary song were utilized, from Ella Fitzgerald’s jazzy rendition to its original German recording of “Moritat”.
The addition of the record adds a very haunting atmosphere to every scene that features it. Every scene playing “Mack the Knife” is one of Hasumi murdering his victims or a twisted memory of him doing it, but because of the fun and bouncy sound, the music almost livens and lightens up each scene. This adds an awesome element of twisted darkness to not only Hasumi’s character, but also the film itself.
If there was a weakness of the film’s to mention, it could be that it spends too much time on Hasumi’s character and his doings. Towards the end, the film tries to squeeze in last minute scenes of development and drama involving the students in an effort to make the audience invest some emotion into them and invoking fear for the kids’ lives as Hasumi-sensei marches around the corner. This is something that was probably lost in the novel-to-film adaptation process, as there is only so much a two-hour film can cover.
In the end, cheering for anyone that’s not Hasumi is like cheering for any given character in Game of Thrones.
But because of Ito’s stellar performance as Hasumi, it’s not so hard to accept the fact that you’re cheering for the bad guy. But, by the end, you will be bound to reassess everything that you have witnessed and think about what you just watched. But that’s okay; that’s what a Miike Takashi film does to you.
Watch this film…
…if you love the dark, twisted perversions of Miike Takashi.