On 20 March 1995, poisonous Sarin gas was released on the Tokyo subway by the renegade religious cult Aum Shinrikyo (Aum Supreme Truth), immediately killing twelve people and injuring over 5000. The incident sent shockwaves throughout Japan, highlighting the vulnerability of a society that for decades had known only peace and prosperity: more so because in this instance, the danger came from within.
Director Tatsuya Mori spent two years behind the scenes with the cult members during the trial of its charismatic guru Asahara in the months following the incident, while its repercussions were still being acutely felt. With the sect still in existence during the trial, its members in the central headquarters found themselves besieged by the media. Thrust into the limelight is Aum’s PR spokesman Hiroshi Araki, an awkward, timorous man who seems genuinely in the dark about the nature of the group’s connection with the gas attacks. Using Araki as a hook, Mori gives a startling insight into the beliefs, philosophies and daily practices of the cult members, as well as some pointed comments on media integrity and the abuse of police power. Mori’s riveting documentary is a candid, insightful, and even-handed look at those at those caught on the other side of the media smokescreen surrounding Aum one could ever hope for. JS