“(…) although The snow white murder case is a more light-hearted movie by nature, Yoshihiro Nakamura nevertheless touchingly points out, by showing the ravage online messaging could have, the inherent dangers of the world wide web.”
Japan, the present day. The burnt and stabbed body of a beautiful young woman is found in Shigure Valley National park: the victim is Miki Noriko (Nanao Airi/荒井菜々緒), a woman who works for Hinode, a cosmetics manufacturer, whose most famous product is Snow White beauty soap.
After Kana Risako (Renbutsu Misako, 蓮佛美沙子), the rather goofy coworker of Miki, is questioned by the police, she calls her old school friend Akahoshi Yuji (Ayano Go/綾野剛), a low-level part-time TV news journalist, who spends most of his time reviewing noodle shops on Twitter. While she ventilates and shares some office gossip pertaining to the murder, Yuji – his online name is Red Star- live-tweets their conversation. Seeing this case and the coverage thereof as a possible career-maker, he decides to interview Miki’s other co-workers, e.g. the gossipy Mi-chan (Erena Ono, 小野恵令奈) and manager Satoshi Shinoyama (Nobuaki Kaneko, 金子ノブアキ).
Soon enough, while conducting the various interviews and teasing forthcoming revelations on the internet, suspicion falls on the shy and plain Shironi Miki (Inoue Mao, 井上真央). On the night of the murder, after the farewell dinner for Mayama (Miyaji Mao, 宮地真緒), a colleague who’s about to retire, Miki gave the victim a lift and was last seen running for an express train to Tokyo, which marked her disappearance. Besides these sightings, the rumours concerning her jealousy and her responsibility for the recent chain of petty thievery all strengthen the suspicion.
Eventually Yuji gets the chance to make a news segment about the case, which sets the internet further ablaze; Miki quickly becomes demonized by various posters. Because of the popularity of the news segment, Yuji sets out to make another one. He delves into the past of Miki and interviews one of Miki’s university friends Maetani Minori (Tanimura Mitsuki/谷村美月 ) and Miki’s childhood friend Tanimura Yuko (Kanjiya Shihori, 貫地谷しほり ). Which new elements do their testimonies reveal?
The snow white murder case is based on Minato Kanae’s novel of the same name (note 1). Despite its title, the main concern of the movie isn’t the solving of the murder case per se but the exploration of the more than possible effects social media can have on a murder investigation.
Firstly the movie is a nicely packaged critique of the use of internet as a platform. Yoshihiro Nakamura convincingly shows how internet anonymity problematizes one’s implication in and one’s responsibility of his own ‘speech’. Notwithstanding the lighter tone of the movie, the movie nevertheless shows that words (accusation, gossip, …) exchanged in a community of ‘virtual’, bodiless avatars sort serious effects in “reality”, the community of bodied people. The movie is a commentary on and a ‘public’ condemnation of those bodiless – maybe even subject-less – avatars and their use of uninvested words, words which have an reverberating impact beyond the virtual space.
We could even say that the point of the movie is to show that words, wherever they are used, have effects or more generally that the use of language is never innocent.
Secondly The snow white murder case takes a deeper look into the inner-workings of the workplace and shows us, although it shows it more incidentally, the workings of bullying on the workplace. The viewer gets an more implicit look into how the company/office culture can easily be misused for bullying purposes. For viewers who want a more explicit and dramatic look, I gladly refer to Forma, a movie whose main theme is bullying.
The movie, given the subject it puts into question, uses an original style that interweaves reality and virtual reality. Parts of the movie are two-layered, where a layer of twitter feed adds to or supplements the action happening on screen. But the use of twitter feed as an additional ‘layer’ is not entirely without problems. Especially when one’s watching the movie with subtitles, the very first conversation between Yuji and Kana Risako isn’t easy to follow, because the twitter (text) and phone conversation (voice) intermingles. Another way in which modern media is used in the structure of the narrative, is the addition of two news segments (see further). Nevertheless the use of twitter text is refreshing and adds to the purpose of the movie.
The Snow White Murder Case succeeds, by way of using different albeit distorted perspectives, in showing that an interpretation of a certain act is influenced by one’s own beliefs (note 2 [minor spoiler]). In a way the use of different perspectives by way of subsequent interviews, which translates in a distinct cinematographically approach to the narrative (e.g. the switching between Yuji’s camera and normal staging), underlines the human nature to corroborate one’s formed beliefs/ideas, instead of trying to falsify them. This is successfully shown through the addition of (two) news segments. This change in style shifts the position of the viewer – instead of following the investigations of Yuji, where now positioned as an ordinary watcher of the news, and enables us to see how Yuji sifts through the testimonies as to make a newsworthy segment.
Although the murderer isn’t revealed till the end of the movie, the viewer, through the blossoming structure of different perspectives on the suspect, develops a sympathy for ‘this suspect’. One reason for this growth of sympathy follows from the fact, as any person who watches a lot of crime drama or movies knows, that the obvious way of presenting Kana Risako as the culprit, implies the big possibility of her innocence, while leaving enough doubt.
The Snow White Murder Case is a good and very entertaining movie, that takes an refreshing approach to modern day media. It’s a refreshing approach because these media influences the cinematography and style of the narrative – but not without any problems, and thus is inherent to the way the movie is presented to the audience. Don’t expect it to be a traditional suspense crime movie, as the murder case isn’t the main concern.
The narrative is about the influence of modern media on a murder investigation. And although The Snow White Murder Case is a more light-hearted movie by nature, Yoshihiro Nakamura nevertheless touchingly points out, by showing the ravage online messaging could have, the inherent dangers of the world wide web.
Note 1: Several other stories of Minato Kanae made the transition to the big and small screen. The movie Kokuhaku (Confessions) (2010) was based on her debut mystery novel of the same name, which released in 2008. Her novel shukozai (penance) was adapted for television in 2012.
Note 2: The movie also underlines the possible consequences one’s motivation – Yuji seeing this case as a possible career-maker- could have. Sometimes the desire for exclusive scoops is stronger than the tendency to approach sources carefully.