Festival Review: Dendera Simon Fitzjohn October 24, 2011 Movie Reviews 2002 Reviewed by Nick Atkin A spiritual sibling of Logan’s Run, Dendera imagines a village community in the mountains of Tohoku where women over the age of 70 are left to die in the harsh winter conditions, to make way for the new generation. Daisuke Tengan adapts his father Yuya Sato’s novel of the same name to tell the story of Kayu, who discovers that the abandoned old women have defiantly built a secret settlement named Dendera whose Amazon leader Mei plots a revenge attack on those that cast them out. Dendera poignantly reflects how society condemns its elderly as useless. “Is it a sin to grow old?” asks Mei. “We are people!” Mei and her fellow outcasts are anything but idle, hunting their own food and building extravagant shelter out of natural materials to defy the bitter cold. Tengan struggles to decide what tone to take, though, harshly contrasting the emotional of the film with attempts to play for laughs. One minute we’re chuckling at war-crying grannies swinging axes in training drills and farting in each others’ faces, then the next they are elegiacally pondering the meaning of life. The confusion is highlighted when, having killed a bear cub that has terrorised Dendera with its mother, they drink its blood out of bowls before performing a preposterous provocative tribal dance detailing how they will ‘lift their loincloths’. Oh my. Kayu remembers in a flashback seeing a woman return from the mountain, only for the village men to beat her to a bloody pulp. The indoctrination of children – Kayu joins in with the village women’s chants of ‘shame on you’ – and vicious torture of women again complicate the tone. The cast are refreshingly unusual and at times loveable but it is hard to sympathise or empathise with their violent, vengeful tendencies. The battles between the bear and the old women are gruesome bloodbaths not for the faint hearted. Dendera’s Jekyll and Hyde nature grates, but it is still a relevant reflection on society’s treatment of the elderly.