‘Love Exposure’ or — Destroying the Various Levels of Religious, Romantic and Sexual Idealisation?

Colin Edwards
3 min readMay 31, 2024


The title credits to Sion Sono’s ‘Love Exposure’ (2008) don’t appear until an hour into the film, something that’s somewhat understandable when you realise this melodramatic chunk of maximalist insanity is four hours long. With that realisation, however, the question is less “What is this film about?” and more “Is this monster worth watching?” Let’s find out.

The film deals with two teenagers, Yū Honda (Takahiro Nishijima) and Yōko Ozawa (Hikari Mitsushima), and how they both struggle with the various forms of grief and abuse they’ve had to endure growing up. For Yū this involves becoming an expert ninja pervert, although this is a path he’s taken not for the sexual thrills (he’s saving himself for a woman who represents divine perfection) but so he has sins he can confession to his father, a strict Catholic priest.

Yōko’s coping mechanisms have led her to develop a deadly set of fighting skills in order to destroy any man attempting to treat her the way her abusive father did and when she is attacked by a group of men in the park one day and Yū comes to her “aid” it appears these two were destined to meet.

Although is it destiny or has this encounter been deliberately manufactured by Aya Koike (Sakura Ando), a recruiter for the nefarious cult the Zero Church? To further complicate matters Yoko assumes Yū to be “Miss Scorpion”, Meiko Kaji’s black hat wearing badass from ‘Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion’ (1972).

If all this sounds convoluted and complicated that because it is and this is only the first hour of the movie I’ve outlined so far. For here Sono’s film spirals off into an erotic theosophical tale of up-skirt panty shots, religious indoctrination, sexual identity, cross-dressing, voyeurism, martial arts, unwanted erections, madness, infatuation, trauma, romantic idealisation, control, esoteric symbolism, nihilism, platonic philosophy, penile mutilation and the cataclysmic destruction of the ego. All this is delivered via a Jodorowsky-esque maelstrom of reality shattering imagery that won’t just make your head spin but could very well blow it apart.

Yet despite all these outré pyrotechnics what’s surprising about ‘Love Exposure’ is how grounded the story actually is, something we’re made aware of from the start with the film informing us that what we’re about to see is based on true events. So you could easily shoot ‘Love Exposure’ in a realistic vérité style, the only problem is the subject matter is so disturbing the result would be almost unwatchable.

But by presenting his tale in such an overly melodramatic fashion Sono pushes his material into the realms of the absurd, something augmented by his overblown use of classical music so by the film’s climax it’s as though we’re watching a fucked-up version of Visconti, where everything is consistently hysterical. This allows the film to get away with lines of dialogue such as “You stole my pants, pretended to be Scorpion and never told God!” and we STILL understand exactly what that means.

Yet the film’s greatest achievement is less any individual sequence or scene and more how Sono keeps the entire four hours constantly compelling, entertaining and hilariously watchable which is something of a bloody miracle considering how it could easily collapse under its own weight at any given second. It’s no wonder the film is regarded as a masterpiece.

‘Love Exposure’ is a psychologically astonishing and emotionally overwhelming experience about how we grow-up, mature and attempt to shed the carefully constructed personas and idealisations we encase ourselves with in order to survive our pain. In that respect Sono’s film bears a striking similarity to Lana Wachowski’s underrated ‘The Matrix Resurrections’ (2021) where two people fight to shatter the various forms of externally and internally imposed delusions in order to create the fleeting chance of genuinely connecting with each other.

Reality is the only place love can exist. Find it anywhere else and it’s a dangerous dream. And “a dangerous dream” might be the best way to describe this indescribable movie.



Colin Edwards

Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.