October 27, 2021



‘Me and the Cult Leader’ Review: Astonishing Doc Tracks an Impossible Connection Across an Impassable Divide

The two men on the train are sharing a solitary arrangement of headphones. “Great tune, isn’t it?” says the more gregarious of the two. The calmer man grins faintly and concurs, “It goes with the scene.” They could be cherished companions reconnecting, or partners who get along notwithstanding their disparities. Yet, they are movie producer Atsushi Sakahara, casualty of the 1995 Tokyo tram sarin assaults, and Hiroshi Araki, long-standing individual from Aleph (earlier Aum Shinriko) the Judgment day clique that did them. Furthermore, their flashing yet unquestionable association frames the center of the urgently moving “Me and the Clique Chief,” a film made even more sad on the grounds that you can never be very certain who your heart is breaking for.

In the a very long time since the assault — panicky beginner film of which opens the film, as the soundtrack snaps with wild eyed police chat — Sakahara has experienced PTSD and different actual disabilities. Regularly his eyes get so worn out he can barely keep them open. But, at any point prepared with a joke, he strolls through the world definitely more quiet with himself than Araki, who lives in a dismal Aleph office, eating cautiously unseasoned food (“we do whatever it takes not to delight our feeling of flavor”) and resting on uncovered sheets.

Araki is a “renunciate”: He has gotten some distance from the world, his family and maybe his selfhood, the better to serve the standards of his master, Shoko Asahara. That Asahara is the maniac behind the fear monger acts that murdered 13 and harmed more than 6,000 (he and 12 acolytes were executed for their violations in 2018) is unmistakably disturbing to Araki — who himself had no impact in the assaults — except for not dealbreakingly so. “We can’t comprehend his fact,” he says insipidly.

Such avoidances happen frequently, particularly to start with. We’re advised it took Sakahara a year to persuade Araki to take an interest, yet all things considered, at first he’s watched and attentive. Long stops stretch between even the most softball of inquiries and his urgently sincere answers. However, Sakahara is taking Araki on an excursion that will, however much the producer’s own friendly presence, begin to mollify that solid, unfortunate attitude. It turns out they experienced childhood in a similar area and went to Kyoto College just a year separated, and in taking Araki back to these spots, Sakahara for all his generous neighborliness, is authorizing a vigilant system of unpretentious deprogramming.

It appears, for a period, to be working. Araki cries when the train sits at the station close to his grandma’s home. He reviews stories from his adolescence — agonizing little tales he relates haltingly. He even has a unique explosion of uncorrupt fervor when they visit to skim stones across a lake. He is acceptable at it, and takes un-renunciate joy in it.

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