Directed by Seijun Suzuki
Written by Ryuta Akimoto, Susumu Saji and based a novel written by Seicho Matsumoto
Cast: Yôko Minamida, Hideaki Nitani, Nobuo Kaneko, Toshio Takahara, Shinsuke Ashida, Jô Shishido, Kenjiro Uemura, Kan Yanagiya, Kotoe Hatsui, Taketoshi Naitô, Yôko Kosono, and Hiroshi Kondô
A former telephone operator’s life turns upside down when an unsolved murder from her past comes to haunt her once again.
Voice Without A Shadow is one of Seijun Suzuki’s earliest efforts. It may be off from his usual repertoire of offbeat visuals and surrealism. The caliber of the work here isn’t any less exciting. Voice Without A Shadow is a tightly paced thriller with a lot of stylish cues from film noir. It could have been easily been stretched to 2 hours but the tight script keeps it at a brisk 90 minutes. While long-running thrillers are not necessarily bad things in itself, a shorter running time keeps the suspense better focused and concentrated. Thrillers thrive on suspense after all.
Voice Without A Shadow could have been easily been a disjointed mess since it switches viewpoints. A strong narrative keeps this switch in viewpoint connected and seamless. Hiroshi Ishikawa is introduced from the beginning and stays a strong supporting character so once the viewpoint switches to him, there is no jarring contrast. His role is to push Asako’s story and he stays true to this role by never inserting unnecessary subplots. Before Hiroshi takes control of the narrative, there is a nice windup.
Voice Without A Shadow starts with a mystery then sets upon about creating a second mystery amidst the first. The way this unfolds is we see the slow decay of Asako Takahashi’s daily life and the psychological consequences of such a thing. So, we’re treated to know that these mysteries aren’t mere police procedures but there is a serious trauma behind them.
After Hiroshi takes the helm, the narrative becomes one giant journalistic effort as he chases the truth. Hiroshi does have a romantic attraction to Asako. Perhaps, that is what is guiding him to do all this work beneath his journalistic professionalism. However, these feelings are solemn and restrained so avoiding a haphazard melodrama.
While the conspiracy turned out to be more complicated than we guessed at first, the initial simplicity to all of the clues adds a documentary like experience to the investigations. It’s just a simple case of finding if the alibi fits or not. The mystery takes a while to shake this initial simplicity, and I would argue works in the favor of the believability of the entire incident since it already relies upon coincidences. The complexities arise only towards the finale. It is a stark revelation that does change the viewer’s perspective on the prior sequences of events like any good twist. The plot twist does result in a mystery that is a bit too conspiratorial which is sort of at odds with how the mystery was mostly presented but seeing the truth come to light is enough to dash any weakness in the mysteries.
A Voice Without A Shadow is a lean and mean thriller that doesn’t disappoint.