God's Puzzle (2008)

Hayato Ichihara, Mitsuki Tanimura, Ken'ichi Endô, Yusuke Hirayama,
A set of twins -- one a hard-working student and the other a drifter -- team up with a dropout to unlock the secrets of the universe and to build one of their own.
  • 5.8 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Shinji Kimoto, Masa Nakamura, Writer:
  • Takashi Miike, Director:
  • Haruki Kadokawa, Producer:

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8 / 10

Apocalyptic quantum physics pitted against God, rock music and traditional Japanese sushi

Relatively lighthearted sci-fi based on a novel picked by the producer, and thus quite a departure from Takashi Miike's usual fare. God's Puzzle gets mileage out of particle accelerator doomsday fears. In fact, it was released just before the sensational headlines about the Large Hadron Collider, so it's unfortunate that it didn't get more attention.

The film particularly appeals to armchair physicists such as myself, but there's more to it than just that. When Miike was struggling to understand the physics in the novel, he came up with the idea to have the student run off overseas and leave his not-so-intellectual identical twin brother Motokazu to take his place for roll call. Not only does this create a reason for the physics to be explained in layman's terms, it also gives us a character who's primarily a sushi chef and a wannabe rockstar. It makes for some hilarious moments as he tries to get his head around quantum physics and the Big Bang. Other intriguing elements include a roller skating security guard, website-style buttons the characters press to bring up daydreams and flashbacks, and a bowl-shaped dent in the wooden floor of Saraka's room. The latter seems to serve as a container for experiments to make you wonder what mysterious things she gets up to, but may also reflect her state of mind throughout the film.

The juxtaposition of science versus tradition is blatant. The spectacular but impractical particle accelerator towers over a rice field tended by an old lady. Motokazu and the reclusive genius Saraka team up on the research topic of creating a universe, which could arguably disprove the existence of God. But Saraka isn't interested in mere academics. With some unwitting help from his naive questions, she's on a path of destruction and capable of carrying out the experiment for real. All Motokazu has to stop her is his guitar and his sushi.

The first time I watched it I found some of the acting very jarring. There's one particular scene where Motokazu and Saraka are yelling at each other, and when they're done arguing, Motokazu keeps yelling because he's still so excited about what he's talking about. However, on subsequent viewings I enjoy the film more and more as I get to know it, and I appreciate the Japanese nuances.