Ritual ★★★★★

Ritual sees Hideaki Anno undergoing an independent arthouse film variation of the central circle of themes he explored so deeply within Neon Genesis Evangelion: mental illness, depression, loneliness, abandonment, self-hatred, and how trying to escape reality because of these very issues can be destructive. While not quite on the same level of Evangelion, it's still extremely close. This guy is very rapidly becoming one of my favourite filmmakers. The film shines bright with its distinctive visual style, spectacularly complex set design, glistening score and two incredible performance from the lead actors. Every single frame is composed with such precise perfection, which actually makes a lot of sense when you consider Anno’s prolific background in animation. 

I'm not sure I’ve ever came across an artist who so genuinely captures what actual recovery from the hell-bound state of constant mental/emotional distress which only gets worse for yourself by running in circles with your coping mechanisms in a confused effort to deal with being traumatized, looks like more than Anno does. His sheer artistry and unrelenting understanding of such sensitive and painful things is nothing short of genius. It’s probably one of the best films ever made about depression. Like the finest of hyper-stylized films, it uses its surreal augmentations of reality to get closer to some kind of poetic truth. Everything feels so open. So personal, in such a way that’s very rarely seen in film. The fact that the lead actress IS the author of the novel the film is based upon, only makes things feel more authentic. Like many of Anno’s characters are, she’s intensely eclectic and complicated, and acts her fucking pants off! 

This really is a legitimately perfect movie. Endlessly vast in its achievements, displaying so much of what I want from the medium of cinema. Anno has created not only an honest and realistic look at mental illness but also of love, loneliness and life itself. Red floods numerous frames. When it doesn’t, it’s at the very least guiding the eye. The imagery is striking and sometimes downright disturbing. Ritual is very structurally creative film. Anno is a visionary. Ayako Fujitani is phenomenal as the female lead, and her character perfectly complements the director’s vision. The way the film moves (fast paced and quickly edited) greatly benefits the film’s calming and sometimes manic pacing of tone and script. It’s how the girl views her life: day after day, manically, claustrophobic, and terrifying. There’s very clear parallels to how Anno views himself, and his work. It’s arguably him at his most personal. He’s unstoppable. A master of his craft. Unique and devastating like nothing else. I LOVE THIS MOVIE!