Imagine a world where every flavor of the rainbow is yours for the choosing. They say variety is the spice of life, and Symbol (2009), directed by and starring Hitoshi Matsumoto gives you a free ride all the way until the end.
The main story of Symbol takes place in a mysterious room Hitoshi one day finds himself in. All of its walls are filled with strange organ shaped buttons with seemingly no exit. The only guide he has are the guardian angels plastered on the walls whom give him clues he must piece together for escape. At the same time, an aging masked wrestler in another cinematic universe has to prepare for what might be his final competition. Neither of these characters will know their paths will cross at an unlikely turn of events and discover the true meaning of life itself.
The first act of the movie starts with the man’s arrival in the room. With the push of a button, a toothbrush is delivered to him by his overseers. Puzzled, Hitoshi tries his luck only to have more random things appear from thin air. Chopsticks overfill the room, an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet, designer vases, fun toys, rope, and other things add to the mix like a thrift shop of wonders beyond the wildest of dreams.
The methods for his escape can be easily be followed along step by step, where every object is used in creative ways. The scenes have an exact, hands-on “escape the room” type of game feeling where a roll of duct tape acts like a lit dynamite on a fuse, or a vase is used to unlock new areas of a stage. The slapstick acting is classical and language a minimal. It’s something anyone can enjoy beyond the tolerance of some innuendo. Colorful arrangements of life litter all over the room at full display at what imagination can offer, if you let it.
Symbol pokes fun of not only consumer culture with its excess of material goods on display, but also deep philosophical questions to be explored, challenging you to piece together a conclusion behind madness when life has no meaning. Everything is jam packed in a simulated reality in which the world is connected, where a drop of a hat can affect the outcome of someone else’s life, and the viewer’s expectations. Answer A leads to C, and B to D. So what is the meaning of life? The material versus immaterial? The existence of god? Symbol is a virtual puzzle for the artistic mind that will continue to have one second guessing, time and time again.