2005’s “Funky Forest: The First Contact” brought together three directors who created a bizarre, surrealist montage of skits. “The Warped Forest” sees one of these directors, Shunichiro Miki, return to the same vein of wacky, non-sequitur comedy with an ensemble cast including Rinko Kikuchi and Fumi Nikaido. It could be considered a sequel of sorts to the first film, and fans of “Funky Forest” will recognize the same surrealist slapstick humour with. This time there appears to be more of narrative, although you would be hard-pressed to explain exactly how things tie together. We open with a group of three men discussing the merits of communal bathing, before discovering that they have been missing for two days. The film then returns to two days prior where we have the same three men, along with three sisters, and three young students, an alien craft suspended above the earth, talk of ‘dream-tampering’, and sexualised fruits growing from nyad-like creatures. Having the same groups of characters gives the film a sense of consistency and narrative, but this is confused by all the inexplicable oddities they encounter. The people of this world use nuts, which they pull from their belly buttons (because, why not?) as currency, and there are also a group of Lilliputian characters who live alongside the humans (or are they ordinary humans living in a land of giants?).
The film relies heavily on shock value and slapstick, deftly sidestepping Japan’s strict rules on pornography with its sexualised imagery (in particular the aforementioned fruits, and a gun that shoots white goop from a penis at the end). The main through-line of the film concerns the spaceship and a questioning of what dreams are and how they relate to everyday life. Several characters are keen to delve into the world of dream-tampering, which allows people to travel through space-time and live out their every fantasy. In contrast, others warn that this sort of tampering can lead to people being cursed in the real world. As with “Funky Forest” before, “Warped Forest” lends itself to interpretation through its abstract nature, like wandering through a gallery of modern art. Is there a significance to the small people, the exposed belly-buttons; the genital-like fruits that people are constantly licking at or suckling on? Much like a dream on waking, the film presents itself in a way that makes you curious to uncover the meaning behind the apparent madness, remaining just out of reach, but leaving you with a powerful emotional reaction to the imagery which, if nothing else, is extremely memorable.