The entire film is in located in a high rise residential building in Roppongi, Japan where four anonymous men and four anonymous women pay to enter an anonymous sex club. At the beginning of the night the owner comes out and lets them know that they will have from 12 A.M. midnight until 5 A.M. to continue whatever sexual activities they desire. The rules include showering every time after sex and using the restroom, condoms must be worn at all times, and men must respect the wishes of the women.
When the owner leaves they are left in silence to continue spend the night as they wish in sexual activity. After the clerk/bartender leaves to get snacks, the men and women slowly begin small talk amongst themselves until the Freeter finally propositions the office lady to go downstairs. From here the remaining men and women slowly pair with the salaried man and the kindergarten teacher, the NEET (Sosuke Ikematsu ) and the college student, and the factory worker and the regular customer. Despite her timid nature, the college student is revealed to have a powerful hidden sex drive, while the factory worker is revealed to have been a virgin up until this night.
After everyone has had their first round downstairs the men and women open up more to conversation, while the clerk returns with sex toys to be freely used for the rest of the night. As the characters begin to expose their darker secrets, the salary man reveals to be cheating on his wife and the kindergarten teacher reveals to have had sexual fantasies of one of her students. As some of the men and women begin switching partners, the NEET and student begin showing a deeper attraction to each other beyond Lust. The factory worker, on the other hand, is left to continue pairing up with the regular customer, as neither of them are desired by the other men and women. After more sessions downstairs, the freeter expresses interest in pairing up with the university student based on her energetic passion in bed, but the NEET tries to stop them, to which the freeter asks him if he loves her. Admitting that he does not, the NEET subdues and withdraws, leaving the others to pair up as they choose. However, the scene cuts to show a couple who have joined the others in the living room, creating an awkward silence once again amidst the group. After strong encouragement from her boyfriend, the couple woman propositions and partners up with the NEET, while the couple man pairs up with university student. Both the student and the NEET are shown watching each other during their separate intercourse, further implying their growing attraction towards each other. Frustrated with his girlfriend's passion in bed with the NEET, the couple man becomes frustrated with her, explaining how this was a test of their love and she should not have genuinely enjoyed it, and both leave for the rest of the night.
As the night continues, the men and women continue to pair up, with the NEET and student together once again. After assembling back upstairs, the group appears to be all together again until loud noises are heard downstairs. Re-assembling downstairs, the group applaud upon finding the factory worker and regular customer actively finishing up, with the regular customer proclaiming to have just had the best sex she has ever had, much to the satisfaction of the factory worker.
As 5am draws the night to a close, the clerk opens the blinds, letting in a blinding white light on the characters. Now under the light, the women shyly put their clothes back on away from the men while the men silently re-dress. When the student loses her phone the clerk uses the NEET's phone to call her, accidentally giving him her number. The owner comes downstairs to inform the men that they are required to give the women 15 minutes to leave before they may leave themselves, in order to discourage stalking, and it is revealed that the regular customer and him are in a relationship. After leaving, the NEET receives a text to meet up with the student, and proceeds to happily meet her at a cafe. The student, however, asks him to delete her number, claiming that she was not herself that night, and that they cannot see each other again. The film concludes with the university student sitting with her friends at school, while the clerk cleaning up at the club receives a picture message of his newborn child.
The movie is based on the novel “Ai no Uzu” by Daisuke Miura which was published in 1996. The storyline was formerly written as a stage play and first performed in 2005.Sosuke Ikematsu as NEET
Mugi Kadowaki as college student
Kenichi Takitō as salaried man
Eriko Nakamura as child care teacher
Hirofumi Arai as freeter
Yoko Mitsuya as office lady
Ryusuke Komakine as factory worker
Muck Akazawa as regular customer
Tokio Emoto as couple man
Yōsuke Kubozuka as clerk
Tetsushi Tanaka as shop manager
In Love's Whirlpool, the men and women are sexualized relatively equally, challenging Lauren Mulvey's "male gaze" theory which claims that cinema objectifies women through the empowered eyes of the male lens. By requiring the male characters to respect the wishes and consent of the women when propositioning for sex, it is shown that this is not a sex house for men alone but for the equal pleasure of both men and women searching for sex. This equal sexualization also challenges common Asian stereotypes in cinema, including the hyper-sexualization of Asian women and the desexualization of Asian men, with the naked bodies of both men and women equally portrayed throughout the film.
In the film these primary four men and four women characters come together and are a faced with an immense amount of pressure at the beginning of their encounter, with long pauses of awkward silence precluding small talk. After the women begin casually conversing amongst themselves, the men one by one drag themselves nonchalantly to be included. Although everyone is solely here to have sex, it still takes a while before any of the characters can make their way up to instigating intercourse and selecting a partner. In many societies and other communities sex is seen as a very intimate and personal act, but here in the film there is no connection between the men and women, so because of this initial lack of a bond of attraction or connection, it naturally takes the group a long amount of time to finally start. In the beginning of the film the characters' bodies are largely obscured during intercourse, but as the characters developed and began to open up more with each other the sexual scenes in the film became more graphic as well. Thus, the character development parallels the revealing nature of their sexual encounters.
Critic Christopher Bourne writes in his review that, "The sex is visually discreet at first, but as the night goes on and more details about the characters are revealed during the course of the film, the encounters become gradually more revealing, both physically and emotionally," explaining how this gradual exposure culminates in one of the film's most striking shots, showing a circling bird's eye view of all eight characters during simultaneous intercourse.
'Love's Whirlpool shows a revealing look at Fuzoku, the Japanese sex industry, which has been embedded as one of the major Japanese subcultures for a long history. As Mark Schilling has mentioned in his work, ‘Ai no Uzu (Love’s Whirlpool): Searching for meaning in the meaningless sex,’ in Japan, the culture of sex industry is constructed with two reaches. In the first and lower reaches of the industry, “Sex is regarded as a service to be offered in defined ways for specified times.” In this regard, sex is more utilized and considered as a type of business, where the level of emotional change is low, and the extent of psychological interaction is limited. However, in the upper reaches of this industry, a deeper interaction between human relations is needed in this context. Upon this reaches, “Love is suggested and even promised, but the adage ‘no money, no honey’ still applies.” The film Love’s Whirlpool has revealed the relationship between those two reaches of Japan’s sex industry in a holistic approach.
The film begins by illustrating the industry’s lower reaches, in which four men and four women all pay to join an anonymous sex party in a high-rise building in Roppongi. In this organized sexual activity, sex was required by all participants, but love was forbidden. However, as the film progresses and each of the characters begin to reveal more about themselves, the film was then transformed from the first stage to the second stage - the industry’s upper reaches.
Throughout the movie, mutual knowledge and stereotype play a large part in revealing the realistic side of humanity. Although sexual interactions are sometimes portrayed as pure pleasure in the film, characters’ mental processes are mainly structured on ruthless mutual standards of physical appearance. Many Asian women are currently struggling to meet the limited ideals of beauty standards, which favor cute, ultra-feminine, submissive, skinny, and light skinned features. In an environment dedicated to anonymous sex, the character's in Love’s Whirlpool are inevitably judged based on their physical attractiveness upon their initial encounter. For instance, most of the male characters show no interest in the university student and the regular customer simply because they do not meet the Japanese dominant standard of beauty, as the university student is viewed as nerdy with dark skin, while the regular customer is covered in piercings and tattoos.
Preconception and stereotypes are constantly being disclosed throughout the movie, mainly due to the central theme of strangers meeting for physical pleasure. Early on in the film the characters begin conversing about their occupations, which come to identify each character in lieu of names. When one of the women reveals that she is a kindergarten teacher, everyone is surprised based on their preconceptions of how a kindergarten teacher should act. Another prime examples of stereotypes and misconceptions is revealed through the university student, who presents herself as shy and quiet, but surprises everyone by her wild nature in bed.2014 (18th) Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival, July 17–27, 2014
2014 (9th) Japan Cuts, July 10–20, 2014
2014 San Diego Asian Film Festival, 2104