At The Movies: In an alternate Japan, volunteering for death comes with perks

In the film, the government launched a scheme encouraging those reaching 75 to end their lives to not burden the state. PHOTO: LIGHTHOUSE PICTURES

Plan 75 (NC16)

112 minutes, opens exclusively at The Projector on Aug 25

4 stars

The story: In a parallel-world Japan, the burden of caring for the elderly, as well as a rise in anti-elderly hate crimes, has prompted the government to create Plan 75, a scheme that urges those aged 75 and older to volunteer for death.

Incentives such as spa holidays and subsidised funerals are offered.

Michi (Chieko Baisho) is an elderly woman told by the media that her self-sacrifice will help the economy. Maria (Stefanie Arianne) is a Filipino migrant worker whose healthcare job puts her in contact with the targets of Plan 75. Hiromu (Hayato Isomura) is a city official given the job of communicating the plan to the public.

If you think the premise of this movie is far-fetched, remember that at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic a year ago, some countries dropped masking and isolation measures despite a low vaccination rate.

The result was a skyrocketing death toll among the elderly as "grandma was sacrificed for the economy", according to critics.

A eugenics programme by another name, others called it, and a scheme that showed the world how life was valued there.

Japanese film-maker Chie Hayakawa approaches the potentially offensive topic of voluntary euthanasia in a thoughtful, moving and yet direct way.

Countless movies have been made about sinister governments seeking to purify the population. They usually emphasise some irritatingly pat solution, such as the free market of ideas or highlighting the deeds of the righteous to inspire the mob to do the right thing.

But Hayakawa's film offers no answers, only empathy.

Plan 75 can be seen as a straight-faced, emotional answer to Jonathan Swift's 1729 blackly comic essay A Modest Proposal, which offered cannibalism as the logical answer to overpopulation and starvation.

Hayakawa takes the trouble to couch the story in a Japanese cultural context, one that believes that the elderly should be cared for by their relatives, but also one with cities in which a shocking number of them die alone at home, undiscovered for weeks.

There is respect for the elderly, but also shame attached to becoming a burden on others.

These details, macabre and highly specific, are chilling.

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