Woman of the Photographs

Woman of the Photographs (2020)

Woman of the Photographs is currently unavailable in the United Kingdom.

When I caught Woman of the Photographs at FrightFest 2020, I called it a ‘masterwork of the decade.’ This was Takeshi Kushida’s feature debut, having previously directed a short film back in 2008. Kushida’s film stood out to me as I explored the films on offer, mainly because it did not seem as outwardly horror-like as many other entries. However, I found a very nuanced and unexpected take on the darkness of human psychology – a more internal horror often overlooked.

Everything in Woman of the Photographs is executed with precise intention. Here, every frame has a rich and complex composition, with some exploring notions of symmetry whilst others attempt to capture a sense of community. Every single image feels magical to me, as though there’s an emotional dimension to everything I’m witnessing. Even a simplistic shot of Kai’s studio in the mid-day light fills me with a warm and calming sense, reminding me of summers when I was younger. There is a personal vignette for everyone here, where everyone will find something that reminds them of a unique moment or feeling. It’s a very different approach to horror, closer to a reflection on the human condition than a privation of it. 


Kushida finds the parasitic manifestations of our consciousness horrific, each one eating away at us and leaving us empty, alongside the collective violence wreaked upon us by the gaze of others. His surreal exploration of social media provokes an intelligent understanding of the social mechanisms that one puts in place to manufacture a specific sense of self. It’s as though we are all Dr Frankenstein, constructing our own internal monster by ripping away at the best parts of ourselves and placing them onto the touchscreen table. This constant re-assessment, re-evaluation, re-designing of ourselves is, in itself, a creature devouring and mutilating us, without us realising. 

Kushida explains that “people often vacillate between their natural selves and their idealised selves”, which is the core of his feature. There’s instability to the human self that is constantly in flux, shifting and morphing – whether this is good or bad doesn’t really matter to Kushida; trying to represent that flux does. We’re constantly concerned about who we are, stuck within a labyrinth of worries, fears, and desires that we cannot find our way out of – we fail to consider the possibility that who we are is different every day.

Woman of the Photographs is genuinely a brilliant conceptualisation of horror, using the psychological ‘Other’ within us – I cannot wait to see what he does next. 

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