Documental 11: Interview with a Cannibal

Posted on April 24, 2013


Okay, this was strange. After discovering a list entitled ‘The 10 Most Shocking Documentaries’, I have set out to make sure I watch them all. Because BLEAK. I started out with this one, a VICE documentary that sits on the side of their better ones. It is an interview with Issei Sagawa in his own home. Sagawa is a Japanese man who murdered a Dutch student in Paris in 1981, and then ate her. Sufficed to say, it is a harsh and brutally frank look into the mind of a murderer and living with the consquences of your actions.

Sagawa was born prematurely, and as a result was under developed straight away. He went to study Literature in Paris in 1977, which is where he met Renee Hartevelt. One June afternoon in 1981, Renee went over to his flat to read some German poetry. Once there, Sagawa shot her in the neck, killing her dead. Throughout the film he talks about this cannibalistic urges from a young age, and this was him acting out what he describes not as a ‘desire’, but as an obligation. It is disturbing stuff. He was arrested whilst attempting to dispose of the body, and waited 2 years in France without being taken to trial. He was declared insane and sent back to Japan. Once back in Japan he was found to be sane, and as the French wouldn’t release vital documents relating to the case, he was free to go. He lives in Tokyo to this day.

The first thing that is glaringly clear throughout is that Sagawa is definitely sane. He describes his actions and motives with complete clarity, and is constantly remorseful of what he did. I get the feeling he is more remorseful because of the position it leaves him in now, not because of any feeling of guilt for Renee and her family. Some of the work he has done since the film is very very disturbing as well, the voyeuristic potential of humanity is very scary. In particular the horrific position the 21 year old Porn actress was put in. It was definitely hard to watch. This film is super graphic as a warning, so don’t watch it if you have a particularly weak constiution. I definitely recommend it if you’re intrigued by the darker side of humanity. Terrifying.

Posted in: Documental, Reviews