The commercial break ends and we return to the studio, where the host is doing his best to stall. The tape isnt ready yet.
In the basement editing suite Endo is working furiously while her assistant is counting out the seconds. Thirty! he yells, unable to hide the desperation in his voice. One more cut, she says undeterred. As the seconds tick away, Endo completes her report. She presses eject and grabs the tape. Then she runs.
Down the hall, up the stairs, down another hall, all the way to the control room. She runs past technicians, past the program chief, past the producer - who yells at her, like he always does - all the way to the machine bay. She puts the tape in the slot, presses play, and for a moment the world stands still.
Then the tape begins to play, and with no time to spare her report comes on...
The Frame takes place in the dog-eat-dog world of television news reporting. Endo Yoko (Hitomi Kuroki) is a high profile journalist working on a segment called The Probe. She delivers the news, the scandals and thus far the ratings, so her employers allow her a certain leeway, which she recklessly abuses at every turn. Endo has just completed another big case, and shes looking for the next hot topic. Then she gets a phone call.
A man by the name of Haruna contacts her, claiming that he has intimate knowledge of an employer in the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication, who may have been involved in the death of a prominent lawyer, currently involved in a class-action lawsuit against the government.
He begs Endo to look into the case, and he even gives her a videotape with proof, though he forbids her to confirm the authenticity of the tape, or try to confirm his identity, out of fear of being exposed.
The tape is harmless. It suggests a certain involvement by the employee, but with a little clever editing by Endo that suggestion soon becomes fact.
Endos deadline is close, but shes still unable to confirm Harunas story. She hesitates, but in the end its just too tempting. She runs the tape without confirmation, and with that simple decision, she seals her own fate...
All hell breaks lose, when a man, Aso (Takanori Jinnai), the one who appears to be a killer in the report, shows up, and claims he had nothing to do with the death of the lawyer. He refused to back down and begins to terrorise Endo, to get an apology from her, and a retraction from the TV-station.
But theres more to the story than meets the eye. Is Aso really as innocent as he claims? And what about the tape, is it really as genuine as it appears? Has Endos manipulation of the facts finally gone too far, or has she stumbled upon a real conspiracy?
In the world of television, only one thing is certain: Well be right back, after this...
Theres something exhilarating about the production of a live news show. The rush of delivering such a program, is something that easily penetrates the screen.
The Frame uses this setting as a starting point, but quickly narrows its focus to Endo and her situation. Her dilemma must echo that of many newspeople all around the world, and her situation is realistically portrayed in a low-key manner, never once resorting to giving the characters superhuman abilities. Everything that happens here is conceivable. Hell, I could even imagine doing it myself, if I got really pissed at somebody!
The scintillating set-up reminded me of The Game and the trouble around the videotape mimics the situation in Francis Ford Coppolas brilliant classic The Conversation. Two great films, and theres no shame in drawing inspiration from them.
The Frame is a good little thriller, but it has more going for it than that, it also raises some interesting issues.
First of all, can we even trust the news? News, no matter how we receive it, is tainted by those who report it. Most people know this, if they think about it, but after a hard day of work, when we watch the news as much for the entertainment value as for the facts, this knowledge retreats to the back of our minds. And thats when it becomes dangerous. When all we want is something to entertain us, we grant the media a license to lie.
But lets go even deeper. What about the images we see? The actual images. Can we trust them? An image speaks a thousand word, they say, but nobody said its telling the truth. Modern societys fascination with, and faith in, the moving image as truth incarnate, makes it disturbingly easy to manipulate us.
An image is just as damaging as a gun or a knife, says one of the characters in The Frame, and truer words were never spoken. We should treat images with the same respect and caution we use when we handle weapons. We should doubt what we see. Question those who show it to us.
The Frame could have gone deeper into these issues, but after all this a different kind of film. As it is, the film does a great job in setting up these questions, though it leaves the viewer to discuss them later.
Technically the film is adequate, not exceptional in any way. The cinematography is often rather plain looking - somewhat flat and lacking in contrast - but I guess any kind of flashy tricks would take our attention away from the story, and break the reality of the story, so I wouldnt want it to be any other way.
As for the actors, Hitomi Kuroki, who plays Endo, is both charming and vulnerable. Her performance is very controlled, which is believable, since Endo is a person who is used to keeping her emotions in check. During the movie her calm surface begins to disintegrate, and when we later learn that Endo has a son that she abandoned in favor of her career, her character comes into full bloom. Endo chose career over family, and now she must face the possibility that she made a terrible and uncorrectable mistake.
Takanori Jinnai, who plays Aso, is not my cup of tea. He conveys his characters desperation quite well, but when the film wants him to be scheming and calculating, he comes up short, often resorting to a comical mad laughter that would fly better in an Austin Powers movie. But this is the only flaw I can find in this otherwise engaging and well-made movie.
The Frame is a tight little thriller with a sense of authenticity rarely found in films like this. It also has the distinct advantage of having something to say.
Im not saying that the film will change your outlook on life. But perhaps it will ignite a spark of doubt and make you watch the next news show in a different light, with a critical eye.
In this day and age thats quite a feat.