The Duel Project: 2LDK

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Director Yukihiko Tsutsumi and the two leads make what would be a silly idea into a highly entertaining 60 minutes

 

I’d like to kill this bitch.”

 

In 2002, producer Shinya Kawai issued a challenge to two directors – Ryuhei Kitamura (Verses, Godzilla: Final Wars, Azumi), and Yukihiko Tsutsumi (Twentieth Century Boys trilogy): see who could make the best feature film featuring: as few actors as possible, one setting, and a battle to the death. 2LDK is Tsutsumi’s entry.

2LDK centres around 2 girls – Nozomi (Eiko Koike) and Rana (Maho Nonami), who are both aspiring actresses. They are sharing an apartment lent to them by the owner of the talent agency they work for and both of them are waiting for a call; specifically one from the producer of a film they both auditioned for, the main role of which they were both shortlisted for. As you’d expect in this Odd Couple-style scenario, the two of them are complete polar opposites of the other. Nozomi is a quiet, naïve and soft-spoken from Sado Island, while Rana, is a Tokyoite (or Edokko, rather), who has had several film roles before, is more jaded about the industry and has generally been through a lot more. How these two vastly different actresses managed to get the same role is beyond me.

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Waiting for the call, they sit down together and begin conversation, albeit not a particularly pleasant one. It becomes increasingly obvious how much these two despise each other: Nozomi thinks Rana is stupid and without morals and Rana thinks Nozomi is uptight and joyless. Things get increasingly tense between the two of them as we find out that not only are they after the same role, they both are after the same man. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, they’re both fighting each other to the death.

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2LDK’s greatest strength is in the slow escalation of issues. It doesn’t start with the girls trying to kill each other. In fact, they both at least try to talk to the other, keeping their hateful comments to themselves. Hell, Rana even gives Nozomi one of the eggs she’s bought (because Nozomi, the insufferable person she is, decides to label all the food in the house). Then one person uses the other’s soap, someone spills the other’s perfume, and it all goes thoroughly to hell in a handbasket. We get to see the two of them grate ever so slowly on the other, until there seems to be no other choice but to kill the other.

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As it stands, the concept might be a little bit silly to sell, but it’s never really taken with that much seriousness. The two leads do a good job of selling us the idea that these two girls so strongly hate each other that anything other than murder would be uncalled for, and fit in well in this weird reality they’ve created for themselves. It is hard not to pick sides, and really I’ve no idea if you’re supposed to or not. At first it seems like Nozomi is the more sympathetic one, but Nonami’s Rana becomes the more likeable character as the story progresses. Maybe that’s intentional, or maybe each viewer likes a different character more

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The direction is solid, and even though, like with Aragami, the camera is limited when the same sets and two actors are in practically every shot, Tsutsumi manages to get some inventive angles in, making the two women’s descent into insanity believable. He gets that claustrophobic atmosphere right and it helps add to the tension. The action is less action and leans more towards realism, which makes every crunch of bone all the more wince-inducing. The two women fight clumsily and even though there are moments of cartoonish violence (electrocution in the tub springs to mind), it never gets to the level of incredulity.

Verdict: In the end, 2LDK is a concise story with fascinating characters and tense moments. There are definitely worse ways to spend an hour.

 

2LDK (2003)

Director: Yukihiko Tsutsumi
Writer: Yukihiko Tsutsumi
CAST

Eiko Koike – Nozomi
Maho Nonami – Rana

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