Films are powerful influencers of culture, and for decades, the film industry has played a significant role in portraying different ways of life. Hollywood, in particular, has used specific cinematic styles to popularize the American dream. However, in recent years, the shift of American film producers towards attracting a global audience by incorporating foreign culture in their film production changed the purpose of film production in America. The remake of Japanese film, Ringu, to The Ring, reveals several intersections and the influence of Japanese ideas on the global movie industry revealed by a similar storyline.
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The Original film, Ringu follows a storyline of young people dying mysteriously after watching a strange videotape. This is a horror story with supernatural elements that involves a girl, a curse and a well (Balmain 46). After the discovery of the tape by a young reporter Reiko Asakawa, we learn that the tape is cursed by evil spirits of a young girl who died after being thrown into a well. Similarly, The Ring borrows heavily from Japanese cinema elements in its setting. The Ring is a horror movie in a modern setting. The storyline is about a young girl with a vengeful spirit who had a tragic life. The Ring highlights the death of a young girl and her friends after watching a videotape, which seems to be cursed (Overton 60). Rachel, a young journalist, investigates the death of her sister. The two films have a similar storyline of the mysterious deaths of young girls and the cursed videotape.
Intersection of Japanese and American Culture
In Ringu, the narrative is about a young journalist, Reiko Asakawa, who investigates the death of her niece, Tomoko, after watching a videotape. It is believed that anyone who watches a videotape dies after one week (Wee 33). Although the young journalist initially discounts the rumour as a myth, she gains interest after learning that one of her cousin’s friends died after watching the video. She then searches for the tape and watches it. Strange things soon start happening to her, motivating the young journalist to teams up with her ex-husband, Ryuji, to solve the mystery (Wee 48). Notably, the American version of the film, The Ring, shares the same storyline. In the Ring, Katie dies after watching a videotape and Rachel investigate the death of her nieces who died mysteriously. Rachel later learns that Katie’s friend died at the same time, in the same manner, emphasized (Wee 49). Rachel reaches out to her ex-boyfriend Noah, a video analyst to help with investigations. She becomes aware of Samara, a peculiar girl adopted by Anna Morgan, a horse breeder who killed herself.
Japanese Tradition vs Contemporary America
In both films, the videotape forms part of the storyline, the original version of the film Ringu, the cursed videotape reveals the disturbing images related to Sadako’s past. It is the video that shows the force behind the deaths (Overton 61). In the videotape, people are depicted crawling on the floor and dying. Similarly, Ryuji is seen standing in the sea with a towel covering his face, pointing at something. The shot of the wells where Sadako was thrown into is revealed in the videotape.
The Ring also describes a haunted videotape that kills anyone who views it within seven days after watching it. During her investigations, Rachel does not believe in the curse until she picks up a videotape that Katie and others watched before they died. She watches the videotape with footage of a well. This is when strange occurrences happen, and she reaches out to Noah, her ex-boyfriend for assistance. Rachel recognizes a lighthouse in the video, which gives her clues for her investigations. The Ring the video images become the point of significance to offer vital information on Rachel’s investigation. Rachel discovers Samara, who is considered to be a strange child adopted by horse breeders, Anna and Richard Morgan, becomes the turning point of the story. The tape reveals images of Samara’s life and her death. She was pushed down into a well by her adopted mother, Anna Morgan. According to the tape, she spent seven days trying to escape but eventually died. Hence Samara’s curse needs to be broken by sharing the tape as she seeks for vengeance.
The film Ringu is a typical Japanese horror movie where a curse must be broken to end the deaths (Campbell, Martin and Faros 249). In the tape, Reiko sees a series of disturbing images, and when she tries to take a picture, she finds her faced blurred in the photograph, this confirms that she is cursed. Similarly, Ryuji watches the tape and creates copy, which helps them finds the hidden messages in the tape. The tape helps them uncover a well where Sadako was thrown, but the ghost of Sadako comes from the well and attempts to kill the two. To break the curse and also save her son, Reiko makes copies of the tape. This approach is also incorporated in The Ring. In the remake, the curse of the videotape created by Samara Morgan becomes the curse. Anyone who watches the tape is cursed and only has one week to make a copy and show it to someone to break the curse (Balmain 108). Anyone who does not break this curse live a terrified or disturbed life that led to their deaths like in the case of the horses. Rachel encounter with a horse on a ferry revealed the power of this curse. The horse panicked and broke out of the pen to chase Rachel. In the end, the horse fell off the ferry and died. According to the storyline, Samara’s curse must be broken to end the deaths.
Japanese Tradition vs Contemporary America
In both films, the videotape highlights the supernatural elements which depict much of Japanese tradition. The supernatural elements describe concepts of evils that are relatable to the Japanese audience. In Ringu, the videotape reveals the old practices and the religious beliefs of Japanese people. The idea evokes different cultural feelings about life and death (Balmain 44). For example, Sadako’s abilities reveal the powers of supernatural forces in determining one’s destiny. Besides, the Japanese culture depicted in Ringu focuses majorly on wandering spirits as a regular occurrence (Wee 51). All this information is revealed in the videotape. Anyone who watched the videotape died of the curse, and their spirits reappear to haunt others, like in the case of Sadako who tries to kill other people. The adaptation of The Ring turns the original version of the film to an Americanized detective story. Crucially, most of the supernatural phenomena are downplayed, and brinksmanship emphasized (Wee 51). The Ring has a rather straight forward story with supernatural forces mixed with some peculiar ghostly scenes to enhance it.
Intersection of Japanese and American Culture
Notably, the film only employs supernatural relatable moments like horses jumping off a ferry to reinforce most of the themes (Wee 53). The chilling scene of the nose bleed is also a manifestation of such. In some ways, the supernatural powers are distorted in favour of reality (Carroll 338). Instead, much emphasis is on the video images provide essential information which portrays underlying value and attitude that influence the structuring of the film. The video images are used as a narration of the storyline. The remake of the film The Ring from the original Japanese production Ringu illustrates how such adaptation was influenced by a range of Japanese traditions and practices. The remake portrays the intersection of ideas between traditional American culture with Japanese film setting. The film setting shares certain similarities; hence, several intersections and the influence of Japanese views on the global movie industry are revealed.
The Japanese culture changed American film production, and The Ring is a reflection of the shift of Hollywood film production. Such films attract a wide range of audiences by extending traditional boundaries that limited movie production. Cinematic techniques applied in the Japanese cinema have influenced the cinematic style of American films in a significant way. Most American producers shifted focus in film production to incorporate elements of foreign culture in remaking horror films targeted towards the younger audience. By incorporating myths and combining them with reality, this shift has dramatically influenced US movie production, making The Ring one of the most successful horror films of recent times.
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Balmain, Colette. Introduction to Japanese horror film. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008.
Carroll, Noël. “Paradoxes of the Heart: The Philosophy of Horror Twenty-Five Years Later: An Interview by Caitlin Benson-Allot.” Journal of Visual Culture, vol. 14, no. 3, 2015, pp. 336-343.
Campbell, Richard, Martin, Christopher and Faros, Bettina. Media & Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication. Eleventh Edition. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017.Print.
Overton, Hamp. “Japanese Horror Films and Their American Remakes: Translating Fear, Adapting Culture by Valerie Wee.” Journal of Film and Video, vol. 68, no. 1, 2016, pp. 60-61.
Wee, Valerie. “Visual Aesthetics and Ways of Seeing: Comparing” Ringu” and” The Ring”.” Cinema Journal, 2011, pp. 41-60.