Detective Goro Yabuike (Kôji Yakusho) is called in as a hostage negotiator. It seems a lone enraged man is holding a high profile politician at gunpoint in the his office. Upon arriving Yabuike enters and begins to converse with the gunman. He is then told by the man to "restore the order of things". This has a dramatic effect on Yabuike and things then take a turn for the worse.
With the end of the hostage taking Yabuike is told he is being put on extended leave and to go home. Instead after being dropped off by an officer he starts to wonder deep into a forest. There he encounters several strange individuals. They include a Botanist by the name of Mitsuko (Jun Fubuki) and her unstable sister, Kiriyama (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi) a young hermit and a group of forest rangers. All of them is seems have become obsessed with a strange old tree located in a clearing which they have named Charisma. Some of them want to destroy it, others to sell it while still others want to protect the tree at any cost. Yabuike is given several conflicting stories regarding the tree and its relationship to the decline of the health of the forest. Over the course of several days Yabuike wonders the forest observing and interacting with its inhabitants.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation to Akira Kurosawa) has been growing in renown and is now widely seen as one of the best of the current crop of Japanese directors. The film that rocketed him into major international fame was 1997's Cure which told the story of seemingly random pointless murders committed by a variety of people and the detective who attempts to understand what is going on. Later films such as Kairo aka Pulse (2001) and Bright Future (2003) have further cemented his reputation as a film maker of note.
In 1999 he created what many see as one of his best and also most puzzling films, Charisma. Originally the screenplay was written in the early 1990's and submitted to the American Sundance institutes film workshops and was thought of highly enough to allow Kurosawa to come to the US to study American film. This high profile learning experience helped to revitalize his, at the time waning career that had hit a bumpy patch after a falling out with director Juzo Itami. After that it lay dormant until finally being filmed later in the decade. In that time another Kurosawa film Cure had come about that in tone and feel was almost a sequel of sorts to Charisma. This is heightened even more so do to the fact that Kôji Yakusho starred in both playing a similar police detective, although the name of his character differs from one film to the other.
Some of the basic structure of the film is often compared to 1964 Japanese film Woman of the Dunes and many see this as a homage on Kurosawa’s part. These similarities however are only skin deep. The films plot and style are loaded with Kurosawa director trademarks. These include the slow pacing and the fact that the plot is a hodgepodge of allegory and metaphor. In this way it is a film that the viewer must actively be observing and pondering the meaning of the events in order to pick up on what is really going on. Most theories regarding the meaning of the film center around modern Japanese society and ecology, but it really is something that the viewer should at least for the first viewing tackle on there own.
Country Japan, Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Cast Kôji Yakusho, Ren Osugi,Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Jun Fubuki, Yoriko Douguchi, Akira Otaka, Yutaka Matsushige, Sachiko Meguro, Masayuki Shionoya, 104 Mins