The Crown (Wilmette, Illinois)
The Aokigahara forest lies at the bottom of Mount Fiji in Japan. It is known as the “Sea of Trees” because of the high density of trees. It is also known as the “Suicide Forest.”
The legend of the forest originated in the 19th century when Japanese left their elders in the forest to die of starvation. Many locals do not venture into the forest since they are told to not go near there from childhood as a result of the perpetual death within.
Upon entering the forest, there are signs attempting to dissuade people from committing suicide. However, around March, many people ignore these warnings and end their lives in the forest. There are annual body sweeps where remains are found and hopefully identified.
The Aokigahara forest is the setting of the January 2016 release of The Forestdirected by Jason Zada. Since a young age, twins Sara and Jess Price, played by Natalie Dormer, always looked out for each other after the death of their parents. As they grow into adults, the duo continues to remain close. One night, Sara has a dream of Jess running away from something in terror. Sara realizes that something is wrong with her sister, so she goes to rescue her sister who is currently living in Tokyo.
When Sara arrives in Tokyo, she learns that Jess has returned to the Aokigahara Forest after a school field trip that she chaperoned as a teacher. The forest is known as the “Suicide Forest” where countless of people choose to end their life. Local legends say that something mysterious and ghostlike happens in the forest but Sara does not believe it. Sara is convinced her sister is still alive so she embarks on the journey into the forest along with travel writer, Aiden (Taylor Kinney) and a local guide (Yukiyoshi Ozawa.)
Many locals tell her not to go into the forest because she is ‘depressed,’ but she does not believe them since she is so focused on saving her sister. Sara’s guilt and depression leave her vulnerable to the angry spirits that haunt the Aokigahara forest. The spirits are determined to prevent Sara from ever leaving and finding her sister.
The Forest has been said to be “based on a true story.” The setting is real, and the film is based on Japanese mythology of angry spirits and the tale of the two twins. The film bounces from fact to fiction throughout the story.
Personally, I really enjoyed the movie. At some points I was terrified, but at others I was excited to learn more about the spooky forest. The real facts of the forest and the mythology grasp the viewer’s attention. I am terrified of scary movies, but this one made me think. I recommend paying attention to details very closely so you can understand the backstory of the different characters in the movie and the forest’s symbolism and mythology.
Photo Credit: The Crown