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Film review: The Snow White Murder Case shows many sides of a murder mystery

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 November, 2014, 10:47pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 November, 2014, 3:08pm

Mao Inoue, Go Ayano, Misako Renbutsu, Nanao
Director: Yoshihiro Nakamura
Category: IIB (Japanese)


Two films with connections to Confessions, director Tetsuya Nakashima's 2010 adaptation of housewife-turned-writer Kanae Minato's debut novel, have made it into Hong Kong cinemas this month. Two weeks ago, Nakashima's The World of Kanako, another crime drama about adolescent girls and the strange closed-off realm they inhabit, arrived here.

Now there's The Snow White Murder Case, Yoshihiro Nakamura's quality adaptation of another involving mystery-drama-thriller by Minato.

This haunting movie opens with the image of a bleeding body of a woman in a white dress; she has been stabbed more than 10 times, and her corpse was burned in a forested national park. Thought to have been as pretty as a fairy tale princess when alive, Noriko (Nanao) was an office worker at Hinode, a cosmetics company which manufactured the popular Snow White soap.

When another worker, Risako (Misako Renbutsu), contacts Yuji (Go Ayano), a friend who works at a TV station, and tells him that she is the prime suspect, he decides to interview her and other employees who knew Noriko and Miki Shirono (Mao Inoue), the plain Jane who, according to her gossipy co-workers, was upset that the man she loved (Nobuaki Kaneko) liked Noriko instead.

Although he wants to get a scoop for the TV station, social media addict Yuji can't help spreading word about his investigation. Almost immediately, he gets a reaction from a veritable Greek chorus of fellow social media users that quickly turns his inquiry into a witch-hunt against Shirono. She's a convenient fall girl, as she disappeared soon after the news of Noriko's murder broke.

It's disturbing to see how casually and callously anonymous denizens of the online world — and fault-finding commentators on "tabloid" TV news programmes — can demonise their fellow humans without knowing anything about them.

This admirably multilayered film also recognises that, despite the fashion for publicly revealing a lot of details about yourself, there are still those who derive comfort from sharing precious secrets only with close friends.

Scriptwriter Tamio Hayashi has done a very good job. Far from being a straightforward tale, the cleverly plotted The Snow White Murder Case is full of twists as it goes about revealing the many sides to a story. It shows that the truth is elusive because all the different parties have their own axes to grind — "People only tell things that benefit them," as one character puts it.

This is one of those rare films that gets better and better as it unspools, as the story and protagonist turn out to possess considerable depth. Sometimes surprising in its incorporation of humour, the film also has a final "reveal" that packs a powerful emotional punch that will leave the viewer teary-eyed.


The Snow White Murder Case opens on November 20