Synopsis by Mark Deming
Masaki Iwana, a master of the Japanese dance and theater discipline known as butoh, makes his debut as a director and screenwriter with this stylized fusion of drama and fantasy. Seven years after the end of World War II, a young boy living in Tokyo is running after a handful of propaganda leaflets dropped by an airplane when he happens upon a crumbling mansion. The boy looks in through the windows and discovers four sickly and deformed adults are living inside, all suffering from a mysterious ailment that is aggravated by sunlight. The four, made captives by their poor health, want to be put out of their misery, as does the failed kamikaze pilot who guards them, but the authorities will only allow them to be euthanized if there is a group of five, and when one of them dies of natural causes, the others fall into a deep depression. When they discover a tunnel that leads to a ghetto populated by other lost souls, they set out on a journey of both desperation and hope. Filmed in France, Vermilion Souls was shot in 2004 but was not completed until 2008, receiving its world premiere at the 2008 Lyon Asian Film Festival in Lyon, France.