Pulse, 2001

A solitary young woman stands on the deck of a near empty ship, staring out into the ominous sea, and solemnly recounts a seemingly ordinary day in a Tokyo botanical nursery when a young man named Taguchi (Kenji Mizuhashi) failed to return to the office after working from home on a software project. Concerned about Taguchi’s extended absence, his colleague Michi (Kumiko Aso) pays an unannounced visit in order to check on his health and retrieve the project disc, and encounters the disheveled and evasive Taguchi retreating to the back room of his apartment after fetching a length of rope to complete a task in an obscured, secluded corner of an adjoining room. After a prolonged silence, Michi searches for the reticent Taguchi and discovers that he has committed suicide during the course of their polite conversation. Soon, the co-workers begin to experience unexplainable technical anomalies: a tunnel image of Taguchi staring into a real-time webcast of his apartment found embedded in a project file; intermittent disruptions on Michi’s television reception; a disembodied voice pleading for help on Yabe’s (Masatoshi Matsuo) cellular telephone. Meanwhile, an economics student named Kawashima (Haruhiko Katô) has logged into an insidious website that purports to feature an encounter with ghosts, and is presented with a series of bizarre images of anonymous people in despair. Curiously, as Taguchi’s other colleagues, Yabe (Masatoshi Matsuo) and Junco (Kurume Arisaka), attempt to reconcile with the senselessness his death, they begin to exhibit unusual behavioral patterns similar to the strange affliction that inevitably consumed him.

Pulse is a compelling, haunting, and insightful portrait of disconnection, loneliness, and the impersonal nature of technology. From the opening shot of the lone vessel adrift on a vast, turbulent ocean, Kiyoshi Kurosawa establishes a pervasive sense of foreboding and unnaturalness through predominantly medium shots, dark interiors, diffused tonal lighting, shadows, and delayed focus shifts: the distorted view through the transparent plastic curtains that delineate Taguchi’s room; the green hued images of the “web ghosts”; the anonymous woman’s suicide leap from the roof of an industrial complex; Kawashima and Harue’s (Koyuki) disorienting evening commute on an empty train. By capturing the paradoxical interrelation between the convenience afforded by modern technology and the profound estrangement that results from the inertia of surrogate interaction and compulsive need to retain anonymity and personal distance in a privacy violative, overcrowded city, Pulse serves as a relevant social allegory on the dichotomy of human interaction and the self-induced alienation inherent in contemporary urban existence.

© Acquarello 2002. All rights reserved.