Vibrator: Food and the Soul

In the movie Vibrator by Ryuichi Hiroki, food and consumption represents the emptiness of Rei Hayakwa’s soul. Rei, the main character of the film, begins the film in a convenience store shopping for alcohol and cheap food to fill her body. The monotony of this event, made apparent by the bland mise-en-scène that surrounds Rei, is then suddenly interrupted by an oddly dressed man named Takatoshi. With his dyed-blonde hair and his fisherman boots, Takatoshi visually attracts both the audience and Rei, symbolizing a definitive departure from the mundane life that Rei has become accustomed to. Soon after he catches her eye, Rei’s phone vibrates (symbolizing her heart) and the subsequent interaction with Takatoshi is played slowly in a sepia tone. Abandoning her basket full of alcohol and cheap goods, Rei follows him out of the store, starting an adventure for both Rei and Takatoshi.

Rei leaves her comfort zone

Rei then follows him to his car where she consumes food for the first time in the movie. Rei first eats chips Takatoshi bought from the convenience store and then drowns it in alcohol so that, when the time comes, she can bring her self to have sex. The next morning Rei forces herself to vomit the chips and alcohol on the side of the road. Rei’s first interactions with food are telling of how she views her soul or what is inside of her. By abandoning her basket of food and alcohol, she symbolically gives up her previous lifestyle to chase down this man. Knowing how temporary and meaningless the sex with Takatoshi is, Rei makes sure that she consumes enough of her alcoholic beverage to ensure that she can go through with having sex. The meaningless of that interaction is reinforced by her vomiting up both the food and the alcohol the morning after. This is a symbolic cleansing of her soul from her raunchy night, allowing her soul to stay empty.

Rei's first interaction with food does not end well

After going back in the car, Rei decides to accompany Takatoshi across the country to his various truck stops. On the way there Rei and Takatoshi learn a lot about each other. Most notably, Rei learns that Takatoshi has a wife and a child back home. While listening to the communication radio Rei accidentally hears some talk about a cheating spouse, static from a local station. This causes Rei to break down and forces Takatoshi to pull over so that Rei could make herself vomit again. However, after getting off the truck, Rei finds herself unable to vomit anything as there is nothing inside of her. Rei’s interaction with food (in this instance the absence of any) symbolizes the inner workings of her soul. Despite pleasant conversations and interactions between the two, nothing substantial is really developing. The fact that Rei believes Takatoshi has a wife means that there will be an end to this relationship. Thus the empty nature of her soul and stomach cannot produce anything to regurgitate when Rei wants to.

 

Rei's meltdown reveals how her stomach and soul are empty

The morning after Rei is sitting with Takatoshi while he eats Ramen. After being prompted to eat by Takatoshi, Rei forces Takatoshi to admit that he had been lying about having a wife and a child. After the meal, Takatoshi then drops off Rei at the convenience store where they first met. Despite declaring herself well again, the movie ends with a shot of Rei buying food at the convenience store, feeling as empty as ever. This last interaction with food reinforces the parallel between food and Rei’s soul. Despite the fact that Rei eats actual food for the first time in the film, she still eats something cheap and non-nutritious (ramen). Thus after she finishes her meal she ends up back at the same place her adventure started, representative of her still being stuck in her old, empty ways.

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