Food is used to a much greater effect then just a mere object of consumption and nutrition in the film Vibrator, directed by Hiroki Ryuichi. Food consumption is used to symbolize the protagonist’s failure to regulate and control a world of mass media and constant bombardment of information. Through the process of purging herself, Rei defines what should be part of her world and what should be discarded as unnecessary and harmful. The film follows the story of a reporter Rei Hayakawa as she meets a truck driver named Takatoshi at a local convenience store. Rei is immediately drawn to Takatoshi, she follows him to his truck and embarks on a road trip with the man. Through this journey of sexual and emotional self-discovery, it is revealed that Rei suffers from psychological problems and is in constant struggle with an eating disorder which she self identifies as “bulimarexic.”
In the image above, we witness a scene from the film when the first idea to purge herself enters Rei’s mind. A picture of a frail young Japanese woman that Rei is interviewing is presented center screen. She is alone and isolated in the frame, almost as if the Rei is looking in to a mirror at an image of herself. This frame seems to be reflecting Rei’s own world of hiding and self-hate. The woman is wearing a long turtle neck in an attempt to cover up her disturbingly thin body and the woman speaks the words, “I didn’t want to gain weight and be called fat.” These words symbolize the constant judging of her body, placing her worth as a person in the way that people view her appearance. Hiroki Ryuichi pushes boundaries in his film in an attempt to sheds light on the secret world of suffering that a person faces when food, an object of consumption which provides nutrition and life, is rejected.
Rei’s own struggles throughout the film are represented though a system of food. As a media reporter, she is constantly asking questions and being bombarded with outside information. It is her job to edit and regulate this information to present an idealized image of each person presented in her magazine. For Rei, however, there is a failure to separate this media idealizations and her own life. She binges; this process of too much too fast is followed by an attempt to edit out what she perceives as what is part and not part of her. It is in this way that food systems reflect both an internal and external struggle for Rei to separate her life as a reporter, constantly being overwhelmed by information, from the life of a normal woman in Japan. Rei is trapped in a world where she is constantly struggling to regulate what goes in and what goes out, both in her mouth and in her head.