Is Lost in Perfection Based on a True Story?

The Taiwanese Mandarin film, ‘Lost in Perfection,’ presents a crime-driven drama narrative that delves into the psychology of criminality and its relationship with media. The film centers around a female TV anchor, Li-mei Huang, whose life takes a turn for the worse when her father starts dating a woman suspected to be the mastermind behind a romance-criminal scandal. As a result, once accusations surface against the elusive woman alleging murders of past lovers, the reporter’s daughter finds herself teaming up with the local prosecutor, Lee. However, by investigating the criminal and her crime, Li-mei’s life spirals into something darker.

The film’s crime-heavy narrative probes psychological thriller elements and strives to depict themes of criminal journalism, media exposure, and public opinion with stark authenticity. For the same reason, as the viewers lay witness to the unfolding narrative between the accused scammer and TV anchor, a natural curiosity must arise regarding the real-life significance of their stories.

Kanae Kijima: The Real-Life Inspiration Behind The Film

Although ‘Lost in Perfection’ charts a fictional narrative, the film harvests significant inspiration from reality, namely the true story of Kanae Kijima, a Japanese fraudster and serial killer. The Director/Screenwriter behind the film, Hsin Yin Sung, reportedly consulted factual reports about the controversial criminal, Kanae Kijima, and her story in the public eye to craft her film’s storyline. Through this real-life story, the filmmaker wanted to explore the role of media and its social impact in a narrative about a female serial killer.

Kanae Kijima, often dubbed Japan’s “black widow,” was found guilty in 2012 for the murders of numerous men through a romance scandal. According to the conviction, Kanae met several men in 2009 and killed them through carbon monoxide poisoning within an eight-month period. The woman was said to be financially motivated, and her final sentencing received overwhelming support from the public in favor of the death penalty.

Although Kanae’s defense attempted to argue that the men could have all died through suicide, the prosecution ended up winning the case mostly on circumstantial evidence. Nevertheless, even though the woman attempted to appeal her death sentence, the Supreme Court denied it in 2017. As such, the woman reportedly remains incarcerated on death row at Tokyo Detention House.

The parallels between Kanae Kijima and her fictionalized counterpart, Hsiu-ian Ho, in ‘Lost in Perfection’ remain evident in terms of their crime. Yet, the film never strives to provide an accurate portrayal of the former’s personage or her life. Instead, Hsin Yin Sung simply mines inspiration from the social impact of Kanae’s case and uses it as a medium to examine several facets of the justice system. Therefore, Kanae’s case, which generated immense public attention despite the circumstantial nature of the prosecution’s evidence, pitched the perfect base premise to explore such themes.

Yet, the film maintains enough distance from Kanae’s reality by fictionalizing her on-screen counterpart and the various circumstances revolving around her story. Furthermore, instead of pitching the serial killer as the protagonist character to helm the narrative, the film focuses on a TV anchor, Li-mei, to highlight criminal cases from a unique perspective. In this instance, Hsin Yin Sung’s past career in the field of journalism likely helps her retain authenticity and a sense of realism in the central character.

Ultimately, ‘Lost in Perfection’ takes substantial inspiration from a real Japanese serial killer crime. Still, instead of taking a biographical route, the film fabricates enough around its storyline to draw a distinction between fact and fiction. Nevertheless, despite its fictionalities, it remains partially rooted in reality.

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