Live or Die, Make Your Choice.
The concept of applying Groundhog Day’s reincarnation approach to various other sub-genres has the potential to cram itself up its own pretentious rectum real fast. Live. Die. Repeat. We need to enjoy this quick burst of copycat storytelling now before others ruin it. Happy Death Day is coming. Yoshio Kato’s 3Ft Ball & Souls successfully absorbs the gimmick and makes it work for its melodrama. When four chatroom depressives agree to meet in a secluded work shed where one has supplied a comically massive fireworks shell to incinerate their worldly problems. No real names, just handles, and no questions as to why they want to end it all. Each is confident in their decision, but can you trust another’s reason to die?
Watching four folks explode over and over and over again sounds like a fun night out at the movies. This being Fantastic Fest I may have gone in with some preconceived notions of enjoyable bodily harm. I am here for the head explosions and sudden outbursts of bodily fluids. 3Ft Ball & Souls delivers on the explosions, but it’s not a film looking to stoke your bloodlust. Quite the opposite actually.
A worn-out father wheels the bomb into the center of a room. He looks beaten. Emotionally finished, functioning solely to accomplish his last task on this Earth. He is perfectly resigned for The End, until his choice is challenged by the same choices of others. What can possibly bother a school girl so much that she would skip into a shed ready to blow? A child can’t possibly understand the desperation he’s experiencing. Her choice is offensive. His is righteous.
Under an anonymous handle we can and will say anything. We see it every second of every day on Twitter. No accountability breeds free-for-all judgement and assault. On the positive angle, it builds community. A batch of Swamp Thing fanatics can find each other in a subreddit and fan the flames to the exclusion of all other comic book characters. We call it passion. 3Ft Ball & Souls puts four passionate individuals into a room to hype each other into their last bold statement. And death is achieved. Then rewind is pressed.
As we’ve seen in other Groundhog Day scenarios, 3F Ball & Souls has no interest in answering the question of who is hitting the reset button. All that matters is that it’s being pushed. Surviving your first death is one thing, but how would you feel about the sensation after your 3rd, 4th, or 5th round? One second lasts nearly an eternity for these individuals but some are more stubborn than others. The challenge that Kato faces is that this sub-genre can tend to stretch the limits of your runtime. Frustration at some characters refusal to accept their extreme situation had me questioning their internal logic. The anticipation of the inevitable resolution also prolongs the proceedings, as Yoshio Kato shows his philosophical hand a little too early. He loves these folks deeply.
The director spoke briefly after the screening. He has been deeply concerned with the culture of suicide that has taken a grip in his country. His hopes for 3Ft Ball & Souls were that someone contemplating such choices may think differently after a viewing. Having never personally suffered such severe struggle, I cannot say whether the film would succeed in such a goal or not. I hope so, but it’s ultimately not for me to answer. I will say that 3Ft Ball & Souls is a life-affirming oddity. As we watch these souls perish in an infinite loop you fall for them. My wishes for their success are the wishes I have for the rest of us. Let’s break free from our anonymous relationship with planet Earth and ask each other, “how you doing?”