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by Andrea Grunert

Many years ago, when I told colleagues that my PhD thesis was on the films of Clint Eastwood, some of them gave me a look suggesting that they pitied me. Even today, and despite the thirty-eight films he has directed since 1971, I hear and read condescending remarks on Eastwood, still considered by some to be a second-rate director who cannot really be taken seriously. However, since his directorial debut Play “Misty” for Me (1971), in which he challenged his hard-boiled hero image by playing a radio disc jockey who is stalked by a female fan, he has always revealed himself as a director in full control of everything he does.

Eastwood is a great narrator whose films continue to uphold traditions of Classical Hollywood cinema. But first and foremost, he is a man who knows how to tell a story in images, and these images are by no means shallow. On the contrary, they challenge the viewer to subject them to close scrutiny in order to grasp their depth and subtleties. Eastwood has a vision, and this vision is a connecting link from his very first film to his latest one, Richard Jewell (2019). The value of individualism and the exploration of man’s dark obsessions and of violence are recurrent themes in his films. Other factors they have in common are the actor-director’s interest in music – jazz above all, but also country and western music – and his fascination for the many shades of black which became a trademark of his films long before the arrival of high film sensitivity and new digital techniques. His world view can be detected in the films that he did not direct but over which he exercised control, having founded his own production company – Malpaso Productions in 1967. In the 1970s and 1980s, Eastwood was more dependent on his image as the strong individual and had to play this role for his fans, who expected him to win and not to die of tuberculosis like the country singer Red Stovall in Honkytonk Man (1982, Eastwood). However, he was presumably never involved in productions which he completely disliked, and he was able to alternate more action-oriented films with personal projects such as Honkytonk Man and Bronco Billy (1980). And he made – and still makes – use of his hero image in a creative way, not simply modifying it but repeatedly calling it into question. Reflections on the making of legends create a powerful subtext in many of his films (1). Eastwood’s star image resonates in his films, even in those in which he does not appear such as American Sniper (2014), in which Chris Kyle, the SEAL played by Bradley Cooper, recalls the police officer Dirty Harry (played by Eastwood in a series of five films from 1971 to 1988). Both men are experts in their field and both are obsessed with their dark side, one of the main differences between the two being the reason that in Kyle’s case the traumatism is explained.

The construction of heroes: Flags of Our Fathers

War and violence are the topics of both Flags of Our Fathers (2006) and Letters from Iwo Jima (2007). Both films deal with the battle on the tiny Japanese island of Iwo Jima (2) that lasted from 19 February to 26 March 1945. It was the battle in which the U.S. military suffered the largest number of casualties in World War II (3), but for many Americans it became a symbol of heroism. Flags of Our Fathers was initially one of Steven Spielberg’s projects, and his DreamWorks Pictures co-produced Eastwood’s film (4). Letters from Iwo Jima was Eastwood’s own idea and represented an enormous risk for a Hollywood production because the cast consists almost entirely of Japanese actors speaking Japanese. Leaving Aeschylus’s The Persians aside, it is perhaps the first attempt to present a battle from the viewpoint of “the enemy”, this alone making Letters from Iwo Jima a unique work of art. These two films deal not only with war and violence, memory and trauma but also address the topic of legend-making (here not connected with Eastwood’s own screen persona) and questions of representation and perception.

Paul Haggis rewrote William Broyles Jr.’s first film script for Flags of Our Fathers (5). Both scripts rely on James Bradley’s book Flags of Our Fathers (6); the author being the son of John Bradley, one of the flag raisers in Joe Rosenthal’s famous photograph taken during the battle and one of the film’s main characters. Both Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima contain realistic battle scenes that encourage emotional participation through fragmentation by camera movement and editing and the cacophony of gunfire, explosions and voices shouting commands or crying for help. There is much graphic violence – soldiers burnt alive, dead soldiers lying in their own blood, human intestines, severed limbs – but this is never used for mere effect or glorification and there is nothing heroic about the horrors of war that both the Americans and the Japanese soldiers have to endure. Instead, emphasis is put on how the war affects the characters. Flags of Our Fathers depicts the change the young Marines undergo, often doing so in subtle ways. They are portrayed as boyish and unconcerned in the scenes at Camp Tarawa (Hawaii) before the battle, and on their way to Iwo Jima. In one scene on the ship some of them have fun playing cards. When Ira Hayes (Adam Beach) shows his comrades photographs of dead American soldiers and a song referring to death on the battlefield is aired on the radio, their mood changes. Suddenly there is silence, the young men lost in thought. In the next shot, three of them are shown on deck, mere silhouettes enveloped in mist and deathly figures. The ghostlike appearance of the soldiers is in both films reinforced by an absence of colour. Eastwood uses an extremely reduced range of colours, making in particular the battle scenes in Letters from Iwo Jima (which means two thirds of the film) close to black-and-white photography. This lack of colour is reminiscent of the archive material from World War II at the end of Flags of Our Fathers, and in Letters from Iwo Jima it is an omen that the Japanese defenders of the island are doomed from the very beginning.

Flags of Our Fathers suggests that the survivors such as Bradley are themselves living dead, still haunted by their war experience. The film starts with the cry: “Corpsman!”. The camera follows a soldier running across the battlefield at night to rescue one of his comrades. It is John Bradley (Ryan Phillippe), nicknamed “Doc”, who is the corpsman called to duty. The camera reveals what Bradley sees – carnage – and shows the young man’s face, then his eyes in close-up, a tear running down his cheek. In the next shot we hear the cry “Corpsman!” again as an old man awakes from a nightmare. The old man is the aged John Bradley, confronted by memories he has been unable to suppress his whole life long.

James Bradley’s book traces the lives of the six Marines, including John Bradley, who are shown in the photograph of the raising of the American flag at Mount Suribachi. Eastwood gives detailed portrayals of the three surviving soldiers, with an emphasis on the critical evaluation of their heroization and manipulation in the process of legend-making. Flags of Our Father is a fragmented, non-linear narrative which connects past and present, Iwo Jima and America. The film shifts from the battlefield to present-day America and to different moments in time – before and after the battle. Rosenthal’s photograph forms the core of the narration. “A photo can help to win or lose a war,” says the photographer in an interview in the film. Flags of Our Fathers reveals how a rather insignificant event can be turned into an icon inspiring pride and hope. As James Bradley writes in his book: “(…) the photograph suggested a very different reality from that being experienced by the Marines back on Iwo Jima.” (7). A first flag raising had taken place after the conquest of Mount Suribachi, two days before Rosenthal shot his famous photograph on the occasion of a second flag raising with a bigger flag. This second flag raising was not the result of a heroic effort but took place after an unopposed climb up the hill and passed almost unnoticed. Moreover, the photograph was shot on the sixth day of the battle, a battle that continued for thirty more days. Several pictures were taken at both flag raisings, but it is Rosenthal’s photo with its classic composition of the six men around the pole with the flag in the middle of the picture and its strong dynamism which became an American icon (8).

As the film shows, the photograph was successfully used to inspire courage in the war-weary American citizens. Many of them were unaware of the fact that the battle on Iwo Jima was still raging, but to them the image suggested triumph and the power of the will to succeed. The almost bankrupt American government used the Rosenthal photograph to promote war bonds and arranged bond tours with the three surviving soldiers who were supposedly in the photograph (9): John Bradley, Ira Hayes and Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford). Eastwood, by contrasting the battle scenes with the bond tours in America, reveals two different realities and illustrates what the aged John Bradley says in a voice-over at the beginning of the film: “Every jackass knows what war is, especially those who have never been in one.” During the bond tours in the film a dessert made of meringue is created which has the shape of Mount Suribachi, and the young men, instrumentalized by the military and by politicians, become heroes but do not enjoy their celebrity status (except for Rene Gagnon). How much they are haunted by their war experience is revealed through the editing. The three men are standing on a heap of earth surrounded by darkness, but the sound of detonations accompanying the sequence does not come from machine gun fire and is the sound of fireworks. Camera movement reveals that the Marines are standing on a small artificial hill in the middle of a stadium somewhere in the United States, where a burst of applause follows the firework explosions. Then, once again, we hear the cry “Corpsman!” John Bradley, framed in close-up, turns around to face the camera, as if listening to the sound of his memory. In the next sequence he is on Iwo Jima again, and this time the noise is that of a fierce battle. The editing effects in this scene and in many others in both films are smooth. They are almost imperceptible movements from one space to another, from one time to another, revealing that these two realities simply cannot be disconnected in the minds of the survivors (10).

Giving the enemy a human face: Letters from Iwo Jima

In Flags of Our Fathers, the Japanese remain anonymous, shooting from their hiding places or presented as the faceless targets of the Marines. In Letters from Iwo Jima, the roles are reversed and “the enemy” has a face, a name and a story of its own. Eastwood shows the daily life of the defence forces, the harsh conditions in the cave system (11) which the commanding officer General Tadamichi Kuribayashi has had built over a period of several months before the American invasion.

The narrative structure of Letters from Iwo Jima is less fragmented but is just as complex as Flags of Our Fathers (12). The emphasis is on Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) and the young Private Saigō (Ninomiya Kazunari), establishing a strange bond between the general and the ordinary soldier who in civilian life is a baker. Kuribayashi saves Saigō from punishment by sadistic officers several times and even saves him from death, and at the end it is Saigō who buries the general.

For weeks the Japanese had to survive in the caves and tunnels on the volcanic island – also known as Sulphur Island – with almost no vegetation and scarce water resources (13). In the final days of the battle, they were completely without food and water. However, and in contrast to the stereotype of the obedient Japanese, they are not depicted as a homogeneous group but as individuals, each with his own opinion – for example, Saigō  who expresses his criticism of the military government’s policy (“There is nothing sacred about this island”, (14) and mocks it (after one of his comrades has died of dysentery, he says that he died of “honourable dysentery”, referring to the credo of the Japanese military to die an “honourable death”). Kuribayashi is represented as an open-minded man who has spent several years in the United States (15) and is aware of America’s technological superiority. However, his ideas are regarded with mistrust by some of his officers, who see him as a friend of the enemy and therefore weak. The film represents Kuribayashi – the creator of the ingenuous subterranean cave and tunnel system on Iwo Jima who was able to inflict the greatest losses to the Americans in the Pacific theatre – as a clever strategist. Indeed, Eastwood was drawn to Kuribayashi because of his strategic skills and unorthodox solutions (16). It was in his letters that he discovered Kuribayashi‘s human side (17). His portrayal of Kuribayashi is as a skilful military strategist who shows concern for the ordinary soldiers, an attitude which distinguishes him from many other Japanese officers. Ken Watanabe plays him as a cosmopolitan and humorous character and a caring father and husband.

Beside the two main protagonists, there are several other characters in Letters from Iwo Jima who are not at all stereotypes, and who reveal their desires and fears, their hopes and their despair. It is in their letters that they often express their feelings, showing that there are no differences between the ordinary soldier and the general, the Japanese and the Americans. Many of these letters are addressed to wives or mothers. And it is a letter from the mother of the American prisoner Sam which moves the Japanese soldiers listening to Baron Nishi (Tsuyoshi Ihara, 18) when he reads it to them. Under the impact of that letter, Shimizu (Ryō Kaze) reconsiders his opinion of the Americans, who are described as weak and barbaric in the Japanese propaganda. However, when he decides to surrender and shows himself unarmed, he is shot dead by a Marine seeking revenge. Avoiding simplistic views of both the Americans and the Japanese, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima deal with the very idea of truth. Shimizu, suspected of being a spy by one of his comrades, reveals to Saigō that he is no longer a member of the kempeitai, the feared military police, but was dishonourably dismissed from its ranks. There are also links between the two films that serve to indicate errors of judgment by the Americans. In Flags of Our Fathers, the Marines discover the mutilated corpses of a group of Japanese soldiers who have blown themselves up with hand grenades. For the Americans, this fits the cliché that the Japanese die stoically. Letters from Iwo Jima depicts their moment of collective suicide. The men follow the example of their fanatical commanding officer to the death, but they express a variety of feelings such as fear and regret. And Saigō disobeys the orders of the officer, respecting Kuribayashi’s shunning of suicide and also his own survival instinct.

War and humanism: a dilemma?

Kuribayashi requires his men to fight to the death, following the policy of the military government of that time, which he does not question; however, this does not prevent him from taking some individual decisions. It is through such contradictions that Eastwood depicts him as a human being. But are they contradictions? Kuribayashi follows orders as military men are trained to do – in Japan as well as in the West. War is something which human beings are apparently unable to avoid, Eastwood seems to say, placing his two films in the context of recent or ongoing wars. Kuribayashi is represented as an ideal honourable and chivalrous but he remains a man of flesh and blood and is never a mere cliché, something which cannot be taken for granted in Hollywood productions dealing with America’s former enemy.

Both Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima have a commemorative dimension, but they concentrate on what war does to men, leaving them traumatized and forever wounded. They challenge the Manicheism created by the propaganda in both countries and perpetuated by Hollywood films and also the racism that the Pima Indian Ira Hayes was the victim of (19). There is no historical record of Kuribayashi’s death, who in the film kills himself with the colt revolver he was so proud of. This colt is an object of significance in the film’s discourse on perception and identity. When Saigō spots it for the first time, he concludes that Kuribayashi must have taken it from a dead American soldier. Later, a flashback reveals that the weapon was a farewell present from Kuribayashi’s American friends when he left his post at the Japanese Embassy in Washington. Before he dies, Kuribayashi has a vision of himself driving a car along a road in America, the colt on the passenger seat. His voice-over, reading a letter written to his young son Tarō, reveals his happiness at being able to return home soon but also his regret at leaving his American friends. These two feelings coexist, being part of Kuribayashi’s complex character. After he has buried the general, Saigō is surrounded by a group of Marines. He attacks them desperately with his shovel when he sees that one of the soldiers has Kuribayashi’s revolver at his belt. Now it is a trophy and one which, ironically, will find its way back to America. The weapon creates a subtext dealing with false assumptions and also dealing with friendship and the overcoming of prejudices. It adds a new layer of meaning to the death scene, reducing its sentimental element. And this is just one example of the multiple perspectives that open up complex views on a single event, an event that changed the lives of so many men.

 

Notes

  1. Eastwood works and reworks his own legend, relying on the role of the powerful individual, and in Heartbreak Ridge (1986) contributes to the legend of the American invasion of Grenada in 1983.

  1. The island has a surface area of eight square miles.

  1. The U.S. casualties were “six thousand killed and twenty-five thousand wounded, while the Japanese defense force of twenty thousand was virtually annihilated.” (See John Dower, War without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War, New York, Pantheon, 1987, p. 92). The numbers may vary slightly from author to author, but they give an indication of the importance of the battle.

  1. Both Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima were produced by DreamWorks, Malpaso Productions and Amblin Entertainment.

  1. Lacking access to the original script, I am unable to compare the two. The name of William Broyles Jr. as one of the scriptwriters of Flags of Our Fathers has been kept for legal reasons, but apparently his script underwent considerable changes after Eastwood took over the project.

  1. James Bradley with Ron Powers, Flags of Our Fathers, New York, Bantham, 2000.

  1. Bradley, op. cit.

  1. Displayed in American newspapers, most of which covered the battle on Iwo Jima, it appeared in the same year on a postage stamp. The memorial to the Marines at Arlington National Cemetery is a copy in bronze of the group photographed by Rosenthal, and it became the model for other war memorials in the United States. The image was evoked once more during a ceremony paying tribute to New York’s firemen in the ruins of the World Trade Center in 2001, thus showing that it still has its hold on the American imagination to inspire courage at a moment of defeat.

  1. As the films shows, there was much confusion about the identity of the six Marines in the picture in which the faces cannot really be identified. According to recent research by James Bradley, we cannot even be sure that his father was one of the flag raisers. (Cf. Michael S. Schmidt, “Flags of Our Fathers’ Author Now Doubts His Father Was in Iwo Jima Picture”, The New York Times, 3 May 2016).

  1. This editing technique is also used in sequences with Ira Hayes and to a lesser degree in those focusing on Rene Gagnon.

  1. Kuribayashi used natural caves and had new ones built, all connected by tunnels. The underground passageways had a total length of 17 miles.

  1. Letters from Iwo Jima contains sequences of a Japanese research team exploring the caves in 2005 and flashbacks to events in the lives of the soldiers Saigō and Shimizu and to Kuribayashi’s time in the United States.

  1. Flags of Our Fathers was shot in Iceland and Letters from Iwo Jima in California (Malibu, Barstow, Bakersfield).This second film also includes a number of shots on Iwo Jima for which Eastwood obtained special permission, enabling him to add landscape shots that included residual evidence of the war – tanks, weapons, helmets and other material –, shots of the two war memorials on Mount Suribachi, and a few showing Ken Watanabe as Kuribayashi exploring the island’s topography.

  1. Iwo Jima had important symbolic significance for the Japanese. Part of the Japanese archipelago, it was where the first battle fought on Japanese soil took place and was therefore not only important for strategic reasons and for its two airfields.

  1. Kuribayashi was deputy military attaché at the Japanese Embassy in Washington from 1928 to 1930.

  1. Clint Eastwood quoted by Jack Foley, “Letters from Iwo Jima – Clint Eastwood Interview”, wwww.indielondon.co.uk, not dated.

  1. Cf. Tadamichi Kuribayashi, Picture Letters from the Commander-in-Chief: Letters from Iwo Jima., edited by Tsuyuko Yoshida, San Francisco, VIZ Media LLC, 2007

  1. Baron Takeichi Nishi was a Japanese equestrian show jumper and Olympic Gold Medalist at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932. He died on Iwo Jima.

  1. At several points the film criticizes American racism targeting the Native American Ira Hayes. In his book, James Bradley plays down this racism and Hayes’s status as a victim.

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You can read more from Andrea Grunert on the films by Clint Eastwood in the book

DICTIONNAIRE CLINT EASTWOOD,  Vendémiaire, October 2016.  978-2363582430 (In French)

 

Dictionnaire-Eastwood-Couve

 

Mifune-Yojimbo-Tournage-07

by Andrea Grunert

To Claude R. Blouin

In Inagaki Hiroshi’s Aru kengō no shōgai (Samurai Saga aka Life of a Swordsman, 1958), Mifune Toshirō plays the samurai Komaki Heihachirō, who, recalling the events of the preceding year, states: “Nothing of importance occurred on 1 April”. Is this an ironical reference to the actor himself, born on 1 April 1920? If so, it shows Mifune’s sense of humour and also his modesty. However, in my humble opinion, 1 April 2020, the centenary of this actor’s birth, is a day to commemorate him. This short article pays tribute to the great actor, producer and director. A man who became an actor by accident and only reluctantly when, trying to survive in post-war Japan, he took part in the “New Faces” contest organized by Tōhō film studios in their search for young actors. What followed was an astonishingly long career lasting from 1946 to 1995. Mifune was cast in more than a hundred films and several televisions series, he became an international star, and he was – for many – the symbol of Japanese masculinity, if not the face of Japan for the rest of the world.

A brilliant career in a few hundred words

Kurosawa Akira, having seen Mifune at the Tōhō contest, was “transfixed”(1) by his performance. In 1948, he cast the young actor in Yoidore tenshi (Drunken Angel), the first of sixteen films in a partnership lasting until 1965 and the beginning of one of the most prolific work relationships in film history.

In his first film Ginrei no hate (To the End of the Silver-capped Mountains aka Snow Trail, 1947), directed by Taniguchi Senkichi and co-written by Kurosawa, and also in Yoidore tenshi, Mifune plays a rebellious young man, a figure which appealed to Japanese moviegoers and which made the actor a star. Rebellion is a key word in an approach to Mifune, who shared Kurosawa’s anti-authoritarian tendencies and often played rebels and outsiders. But it was his speed, his ability to change the expression on his face so very quickly and also his energy which made him the ideal actor for this great director, whose work was so concerned with movement. As Kurosawa put it: “Mifune had a kind of talent I had never encountered before in the Japanese film world. It was, above all, the speed with which he expressed himself that was astounding.”(2)

Mifune’s first films were gendai-geki, but when Allied censorship ended in 1949 and the ban on jidai-geki and chanbara was lifted, he was often cast as a samurai, a role he is closely associated with and to which the title of Steven Okazaki’s documentary refers: Mifune: The Last Samurai (USA/Japan, 2015). Mifune played the legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi several times – in Inagaki’s Kanketsu Sasaki Kojirō: Ganryū-jima kettō (Sasaki Kojirō, 1951), in which he had only a supporting role, and in Inagaki’s Samurai Trilogy (1954-1956). His Musashi in the films that make up this trilogy develops from a rebellious adolescent to a swordsman looking for perfection and a sense in life. This development is magnificently displayed by Mifune, who plays the untamed youth with tremendous energy but is able to reveal the psychological depths of the character by means of highly nuanced facial expression and a restrained but complex body language. Mifune’s Musashi has romantic features to which the actor adds a good dose of sensuality, making him even more appealing.

In other jidai-geki, Mifune combines naturalist acting and extravagant poses, tenderness and bravado. In films such Ōsaka-jō monogatari (Daredevil in the Castle, 1961, Inagaki Hiroshi) or Akage (Red Lion, 1969, Okamoto Kihachi), he reveals his tremendous talent for comedy, playing men full of life and brimming with vitality. Mohei, the protagonist in Ōsaka-jō monogatari, is an outsider just as much as the protagonists he plays in Bakurō ichidai (The Life of a Horse Trader, 1951, Kimura Keigo), Muhomatsu no isshō (The Rickshaw Man, 1958, Inagaki Hiroshi), Kunisada Chūji (Chuji, the Gambler, 1960, Taniguchi Senkichi) and many other jidai-geki and gendai-geki films. Araki Mataemon: Kettō kagiya no tsuji (Vendetta of Samurai, 1952, Mori Kazuo, screenplay by Kurosawa) calls into question the bushidō via Mifune’s rich performance, revealing behind the accomplished swordsman and loyal bushi the moral dilemma and the despair of a man who, while respecting the codes of his caste, is forced into a fight to the death with his best friend. However, it is in Yōjinbō (Yojimbo, 1961, Kurosawa Akira) that Kurosawa and Mifune transform the swordfighting film by making it both more violent and funnier and by presenting a hero whose moral objectives are ambiguous. Mifune plays the yōjinbō with an amused grin and a laid-back attitude, the cool hero for more than one generation of moviegoers who became a role model not only in Japan.

Mifune played the role of the yōjinbō, the bodyguard, in several other films, including Zatōichi to Yōjinbō (Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo, 1970, Okamoto Kihachi) and Machibuse (Ambush at Blood Pass, 1970, Inagaki Hiroshi), and in television series such as Kaya no surōnin (Ronin of the Wastelands, 1973-1974) and Surōnin makaritorū (The Lowly Ronin, 1981-1983), produced by his own production company, Mifune Productions, which he founded in 1963. In the films and series with Mifune as actor and producer, he demonstrates his superb martial skills and plays ideal figures who stand up against corruption and crime and fight poverty and injustice. The rōnin Mister Danna in Ningyi-tei ibun: muhōgei no surōnin (Ronin in a Lawless Town, 1976-1977) is one of these superheroes, and Mifune saves the protagonist from being a mere cliché by his versatility and fine acting as well as by a brand of humour which shows that he does not take himself too seriously. Both Ningyi-tei ibun: muhōgei no surōnin and Dai Chūshingura (Epic Chushingura, 1971), a 53-episode series based on the story of the 47 Akō rōshi, have a strong didactic tendency, allowing the viewer many insights into Japanese history and the bushidō. In Dai Chūshingura, Mifune plays Ōishi Kuranosuke as the model warrior, giving a naturalistic performance of amazing depth and revealing Ōishi as a complex and captivating human being. All of the films and series produced by Mifune’s company also emphasize its founder’s concern with social issues.

It is not surprising that an actor who had achieved so much fame and been celebrated for his heroic roles starred in several war films made in the 1960s. He was cast several times as Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku (Rengō kantai shirei chōkan: Yamamoto Isoroku/Admiral Yamamoto, 1968, Maruyama Seiji, Midway, USA, 1976, Jack Smight etc.) and as Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō (Nihonkai daikaisen/The Great Battle of the Japanese Sea, 1969, Maruyama Seiji, Nihonkai daikaisen: umi yukaba, 1983, Masuda Toshio etc.). He played Anami Korechika, Japan’s last war minister, in Nippon no ichiban nagai hi (Japan’s Longest Day, 1967, Okamoto Kihachi) and the senior naval officer who evacuated the Japanese garrison of 5000 men in a courageous operation at Kiska a few days before the Americans landed on the Aleutian Island (Taiheiyō kiseki no sakusen/Retreat from Kiska, 1965, Maruyama Seiji). The only film Mifune directed – Gojūman-nin no isan (The Heritage of the 500,000, 1963) – combines adventure with memories of the war and of a violent past that still haunted the survivors, including the director-actor-producer himself.

Mifune is best-known for his samurai films, but he was just as convincing in romantic roles (Konyaku yubiwa/The Wedding Ring, 1950, Kinoshita Keisuke and Tsuma no kokoro/A Wife’s Heart, 1956, Naruse Mikio) and as a yakuza-godfather figure (Nihon no don: Yabohen/Godfather of Japan: Ambition, 1977 and Nihon no don: Kanketsuhen/Godfather of Japan: The Final Chapter, 1978, Nakajima Sadao) and a police inspector (Angokugai no taiketsu/Tales of the Underworld: The Last Gunfight, 1960, Okamoto Kihachi). His performance as the leading role in Ànimas trujano (Mexico, 1962, Ismael Rodriguez) was so convincing that the Mexican public believed him to be a Mexican. In the late 1960s, he became sekai no Mifune (Mifune of the world) and appeared in several international productions such as Hell in the Pacific (USA, 1968, John Boorman), Soleil rouge (Red Sun, France/Italy/Spain, 1971, Terence Young), 1941 (USA, 1979, Steven Spielberg) and in the American mini-series Shogun (USA, 1980, Jerry London).

Kurosawa said about his protégé: “Mifune is simply too well-built, he has too much presence. He can’t help but bring his own dignity to his roles.”(3) And dignified he was right up to and including his last screen appearance in Kumai Kei’s Fukai kawa (Deep River, 1995). Tsukada – the character he plays in this film – looks elegant in his silk dressing gown. Already weakened by illness, Mifune illuminates this scene and imbues it with the passion still burning inside him, lighting up the screen one final time.

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A closer look at three films

Mifune was a star who was able to hide completely behind a mask. Even in films in which he was typecast, he succeeded in exploring the humanity of the characters he played beyond the cliché. His restrained acting is perfect for a screen hero assuming a different identity, and a pair of glasses is enough to complete the portrayal of the average Japanese (Warui yatsu hodo yoku nemuru/The Bad Sleep Well, 1960, Kurosawa Akira). When he was 35, he played a man twice that age (Ikimono no kiroku/I Live in Fear, 1955, Kurosawa Akira), and it is not make-up and short-cropped white hair alone which make him credible in this role. His whole body is transformed, and his gestures and movements disguise his muscular build. When face to face with 61-year-old actress Miyoshi Eiko, Mifune is absolutely convincing as her husband.

In this second part of my article, I will take a closer look at Mifune’s performances and reveal his versatility by considering his approach to three different roles. I am well aware that I can only provide a fragmented view as acting co-exists with other means of mise-en-scène, and it is not always easy, and perhaps impossible, to identify the source of a gesture. Is it the actor or the director or both? I focus here on Mifune on the assumption that these contributions are his, a logical assumption since he was a particularly creative actor, as confirmed by his ability to use and change the expression on his face, something that fascinated not only Kurosawa.

The rebellious youth: Yoidore tenshi

In Yoidore tenshi Mifune plays the yakuza Matsunaga, who is suffering from tuberculosis. Dr Sanada (Shimura Takashi), who lives and works in a run-down neighbourhood, tries to help him. Matsunaga is afraid of the disease, which was incurable in Japan until the late 1940s and was therefore considered a social stigma. He is a rebellious young man, a role which Mifune had already successfully played in his first film Ginrei no hate. In Yoidore tenshi, Kurosawa gives the character of this outsider depth, making him the symbol of the generation sacrificed during the war. Matsunaga is a disoriented young man with no clear perspective in post-war Japan, a country coming to terms with defeat and forced to face sudden socio-cultural change. The feeling of insecurity and resignation that marks a whole generation is expressed vividly through Mifune’s acting. In the first part of the film, Matsunaga is a brutish, arrogant youth, a proud male strutting around the streets like a peacock. Dancing with his mistress, the prostitute Nanae (Kogure Michiyo), his shrugging shoulders and protruded breast are a perfect expression of male aggressiveness. This new young actor Mifune reveals Matsunaga’s vulnerability and hidden fears through his performance and he does so with great speed and subtlety. In the very first sequence, Dr Sanada’s assumption that the young man has contracted tuberculosis affects his patient visibly, and his aggressiveness gives way to thoughtfulness and speculation. When the doctor calls him a coward, a cut on his face is a clear sign of his anger, and the next moment he darts at Sanada. This change from arrogance to fear which generates aggressiveness is repeated in several other scenes and expresses Matsunaga’s inner turmoil. He snarls, his eyes flash with anger and emotions are laid bare, becoming almost palpable.

Matsunaga’s physical decline is highlighted by his make-up – black making his cheeks appear hollow. However, more than any external means, it is the acting which reveals Matsunaga’s vulnerability, barely hidden behind his virile demeanour. His arrogance is only a mask to hide his confusion and lack of self-esteem, and Mifune’s stunning performance reveals the many cracks in this mask. This is seen in Matsunaga’s first encounter with his rival Okada (Yamamoto Reizaburō), who has just been released from prison. Matsunaga proudly walks around  in the streets of the district which he and his gang control. While he is staring into a pond filled with garbage, a shadow is cast close to his own shadow in the slimy liquid. There is then a cut to Okada and Matsunaga, the latter bowing respectfully to the older gangster. Matsunaga’s demeanour shows a change from pride to servility, a change also expressed in his voice – much quieter and less confident than before.

In 1948 and thus a few years before Marlon Brando and James Dean, Mifune revealed the intensity and also the phlegm of a young man who feels bad about himself and uncomfortable in his body. This intensity, unusual in Japanese cinema, was so convincing that the Japanese public of that time took his performance for reality and thought that what they could see was a lunatic(4). And Kurosawa said of Drunken Angel, his seventh film: “In this picture I finally discovered myself. It was my picture. I was doing it and no one else. Part of this was thanks to Mifune.”(5)

The super-rōnin: Yōjinbō

Kurosawa’s Yōjinbō is a critical response to conventional jidai-geki and the fashionable yakuza films of the early 1960s. Set in the first half of the 19th century, the film depicts a society in which the merchants have become an important force despite the fact that the samurai still represent the ruling class. The protagonist played by Mifune is a rōnin who arrives in a town ruined by the rivalry between two merchants. He offers his services as a yōjinbō (bodyguard) to both, trying to play them off against each other as an amoral opportunist in a society dominated by greed and violence. In such an evil world, the conflict between giri (loyalty) and ninjō (personal feeling) that is at the core of many jidai-geki is obsolete. This rōnin is cynical and a true killing machine, but he purges the town of the true villains and helps a young family to escape.

In this film, Kurosawa is not interested in exploring psychological depth. His protagonist remains an enigma and the townspeople are mere clichés. However, the main character and the story, only simple on the surface, become complex through the interaction between characters and Mifune’s flawless performance. His speed and creativity make him the perfect choice for the role of a super-rōnin who injures and kills a large number of enemies with amazing agility. He demonstrates his speed and skill as a swordsman and – even more important – conveys his emotions physically through facial and body language, including tics and nuanced control of the expressions on his face.

The unkempt yōjinbō walks around the streets of the town, pulling his arms inside his grubby kimono to keep warm, and shrugging his shoulders. It is the walk of a swordsman, brilliantly supported by Satō Masaru’s music in perfect synchrony with the actor’s body movements. Kurosawa said about this walk: “It is Mifune’s own, but to stress it I carefully selected camera framings and lenses.”(6) The shrugging is not simply a mannerism but an expression of the harsh reality in which the lonely rōnin in his thin kimono and threadbare hakama lives, thus contributing to the portrayal. The same applies to the scratching, also an invention of Mifune. “Shrugging and scratching myself were my own ideas. I used these mannerisms to express the unemployed samurai, penniless, wearing dirty [kimono]. Sometimes this kind of man felt lonely, and these mannerisms characterize the loneliness.”(7) And the toothpick is a real brainwave. “A man who continually munches on a toothpick cannot help but look reflective, and at the same time informal.”(8)

The toothpick symbolizes the yōjinbō’s laconic, casual and unceremonious attitude – that of a self-confident man. He looks at the violence around him with an amused expression, a smile playing on his lips. He is the one who is pulling the strings and having fun, an aspect supported by details such as in the scene in which he eavesdrops on one of his enemies. When a group of prostitutes appear behind him, also listening and looking at him suspiciously, he simply sticks out his tongue at them. Another splendid reaction which makes words superfluous is when he sees the dog carrying a human hand. The yōjinbō’s face is like an open book, showing that an idea has sprung to his mind, namely that he will stay in the doomed town and make money out of the bloody conflict. Such attention to detail gives Mifune the opportunity to explore a great variety of facial expressions. One clear example of this is when he is confronted by the mallet-brandishing giant, whom he first looks at with surprise and then inspects from head to toe to emphasize – maybe with a touch of irony – the man’s enormous size.

Mr. Everyman: High and Low

The character Mifune plays in Tengoku to jigoku (High and Low, 1963), a film set in modern Japan, contrasts sharply with the very physical role as rōnin in Yōjinbō. Gondo (Mifune), the production manager at National Shoes, is trying to negotiate a deal to become one of the company’s major shareholders when he is informed that his son has been kidnapped. Shortly after, he learns that the kidnapper has taken his chauffeur’s son by mistake. Nevertheless, he is demanding an enormous sum of money, which Gondo at first refuses to pay because he needs the money for the deal. He then changes his mind and pays the ransom but loses all  his wealth. He decides to leave National Shoes and to found his own company, freeing himself from a corrupt system only interested in profit-making.

Gondo is one of Kurosawa’s heroes who accept individual responsibility, in this case even for the kidnapper, to whom he says at the end: “Why must we hate each other?” Gondo lives in a magnificent villa, but coming from a working-class background which he has not forgotten, he proudly demonstrates his skills as a shoemaker. With a short haircut and a moustache, wearing a white shirt and jumper, Mifune looks just like an average citizen. However, it is not costume and haircut alone that ensure this star actor becomes invisible behind the role he is playing but, once again, it is in particular the way his sensitive approach to the character and his sense of space and timing contribute to characterization. The film is divided into three parts, with the first part shot almost exclusively in Gondo’s huge living room with its bay window affording a panoramic view of the city of Yokohama. Filmed in widescreen, the space looks like a stage on which the actors’ positions are skilfully choreographed. At the beginning of the film, Gondo discusses the policy of National Shoes with the three other managers, who do not share his work ethos but are only interested in reducing costs. Gondo, refusing to produce the kind of low-quality shoes his fellow directors are eager to promote, is presented as a self-confident man with a commanding voice and determined gestures.

The heated debates with his colleagues already suggest that Gondo, despite his self-confidence, is a man who can barely conceal his fury. The kidnapping, turning him into a victim,  provokes a variety of emotions from despair to anger, from frustration to resignation. His inner turmoil becomes palpable when he walks back and forth along the length of the bay window, his hand running along the closed curtains while he explains to his chauffeur (Sada Yukata) why he cannot pay the ransom. But when he finally stops, his fists are clenched and his shoulders are slightly bent, like those of a man who bears a heavy burden and doubts his own words. Mifune succeeds in conveying Gondo’s moral dilemma by physical means – a slight movement of his lips showing his displeasure or his anger, a nervous gesture, the way his body freezes etc. His acting is as economical as Kurosawa’s cinematic style when he pulls the curtains open and closes them rapidly with an irritated gesture in response to the warning given by the policemen who are in the same room about the dangers of being observed by the kidnapper. Mifune finds the perfect balance between energy and quiescence to match Kurosawa’s directing. It is all there in his gaze and in the small gestures which betray his feelings .“I won’t listen to anyone. I won’t pay,” shouts Gondo, but his fingers drumming on his thighs reveal his tenseness. This nuanced acting shows once again that Mifune may have been a star but was a chameleon-like actor, able to conceal his own character and to become completely absorbed in the role he was playing.

“An actor through and through”

“Mifune was an actor through and through,” stated Kumai Kei, the director of his last film Fukai kawa(9). What an achievement for a man who did not intend to become an actor. Perhaps one can apply to Mifune what the character Funayama Jirō he played in the television series Gōnin no nobushi (Five Freelance Samurai, 1968) said about swordsmanship: “Swordsmanship is something you cannot learn. It is something you have in your heart.” Mifune invested heart, body and soul in his acting, and this is what makes him so outstanding and unforgettable.

Mifune-DrunkenAngel-29

 

1 Akira Kurosawa, Something Like an Autobiography, New York: Vintage, 1983, p. 160.
2 Ibid., p. 161.
3 Donald Richie, The Films of Akira Kurosawa, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1996, p. 133.
4 Tadao Satō, “The Multi-layered Nature of the Tradition of Acting in Japanese Cinema”, in Wimal Dissanayake, ed. Cinema and Cultural Identity: Reflections on Film from Japan, India and China, Lanham, MD, University Press of America, 1988, p. 47.
5 Bert Cardullo, Akira Kurosawa: Interviews, Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2008, p. 8
6 Quoted in Richie, op. cit., p. 155.
7 Quoted in Stuart Galbraith IV, The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune, New York/London: Faber & Faber, 2002, p. 304.
8 Richie, op. cit., p. 155.
9 Quoted in Galbraith, op. cit., p. 632.

 

Once Upon a Dream-01

by Andrea Grunert

To Takahashi Tetsuya

The Lichtblick Cinema in Berlin was the location for a screening of films by the Japanese filmmaker Shichiri Kei. Once Upon a Dream (2007/2016, 80 min.), Necktie (2019, 15 min.) and Music as Film (2014, performance version with reality voice-over and remix) were shown on 3 March 2020 with the director himself present. My interest in his films was aroused a few years ago by the cinematographer Takahashi Tetsuya, one of Shichiri’s faithful collaborators. Unable to travel to Tokyo, the screening in Berlin was for me the first opportunity to finally discover a small sample of his work. I do not live in Berlin, but I seized the opportunity to attend the presentation of three films by Shichiri Kei, and my decision to do so turned out to be the best I could have taken.
Shichiri does not like genre categorizations and indeed, his films combine multiple elements, making a classification difficult. However, Once Upon a Dream and Music as Film in particular go beyond the conventional storytelling that most filmgoers are used to. Shichiri creates complex works relying on association and dissociation. The experimental character of his films requires considerable attention from us viewers, an attention which is, however, rewarded by deeply felt emotions, in the best case leading to understanding and insights. I have been in very high spirits since the evening at the Lichtblick Cinema, as if under the (very positive) spell of the films, and they continue to provoke new questions. Questions about the medium itself, about representation and perception and about the very essence of the images which continue to haunt us in a world that is flooded with images and sounds and in which digitalization offers new creative possibilities but also sets many traps. Shichiri’s work questions anew the very nature of the relationship between image and reality.

Once Upon a Dream

Once Upon a Dream is inspired by a manga in which the characters were represented. In Shichiri’s film, human bodies are almost totally absent. There are just a few shots in which actors are framed, and where they are framed, their bodies are fragmented or stylized. A young woman is filmed from behind, and in a series of more general shots, the woman appears in a view of a landscape as a miniature figure in a wide empty space. Or, we see parts of the human body such as hands. It is the human voice, detached from the body, which is at the very core of Once Upon a Dream, a film reminiscent of films by Marguerite Duras, a writer and filmmaker Shichiri is indebted to as he told me in a short improvised interviewii. However, in Shichiri’s work it is the voice that makes human presence strongly felt.
Once Upon a Dream is a cult film in Japan, where it receives annual revivals. On the 10th anniversary of the first screening, it was remastered in surround sound. The voice-over is not a commentary but an interior monologue, a stream of thoughts, memories, impressions. There are also dialogues between a man and a woman. And there is an inner confrontation with scary voices which haunt the woman and to which she refers in her monologues and in the dialogues. We listen to the sounds of the nature – the chirping of birds – or to a train passing by. In some sequences, the surrounding sounds of the natural or the urban environment are faded out, whereas the voice-over continues. Long stretches of landscape shots or street views are accompanied by music. Sometimes, a second soundtrack is audible in the background while we can still hear the voice-over. This complex approach to sound is mirrored by a similarly complex treatment of image: dissolution, fragmentation, subtle contrasts between light and shade. The blackness of the first shot is transformed by the light of a sunrise, with the branches of trees appearing as dark silhouettes set against the pale blue of the sky. The image of the tree emerges before our eyes while we listen to music and to the sound of a passing train – a reminder of the urban world, which is then revealed after a sudden cry by a female voice puts an abrupt end to idyllic feelings. The interior shots of a small flat – bedroom, tiny bathroom – suggest the everyday life of a woman, who is framed from behind while smoking a cigarette. The sounds and images of the most banal objects – a toilet, for example – are frequently used throughout the film. Spaces of daily life – the flat, empty streets, various rooms in a school in which the woman and the man work – are framed by the camera while the voices evoke memories, fears, dreams. The images of material objects collide with thoughts about love and work, insanity and death, revealing Shichiri’s interest in the subconscious. Our brain is not focused on a single object or space that is captured by the camera. Instead, thoughts and the spoken text drift away from the immediate environment, as if on a different track. Through dissociation of image and sound, new imaginary spaces are filled in us, the viewers, by our minds and emotions. There are also moments of light relief, such as the shots of the ashtray with the picture of a black cat and “le chat” (French for “the cat”) on it. This picture of a cat is an almost comic reference to the cat which lives in the woman’s flat and which appears frequently in the film and can even be seen in a photograph next to the toilet.

Once Upon a Dream is also a work on perception. Hands, the topic of the interior monologue and/or dialogue, are shown in close-up, revealing the way we perceive ourselves and our environment. Shichiri recalled during our short interview that he was reflecting here on human vision. Our field of vision is limited and our perception fragmented, which is one of the reasons why he avoids a representation of the human body in this film. However, Once Upon a Dream is not an abstract construct. Voices and images create strong feelings. The absent-present characters behind the voices express feelings which point to a descent into madness, for example the woman’s fear of waking up. Love, fear, madness, death are the topics of the spoken text, and they are conveyed by the emotions evoked by sound and image. Shichiri told me that his approach to reality is via the fantastic, and Once Upon a Dream shows that he does not need special effects to demonstrate that reality is a complex entanglement of images and sound, everyday impressions and poetry, material reality and the subconscious, the visible and the invisible.

Necktie

Necktie

In Once Upon a Dream the boundaries between reality and dream are blurred. Dream establishes a link between this film and Necktie, in which dream is an essential part of the narrative. This short film combines the search for a missing woman with the exploration of identity and desire. The search leads a man and a woman through the streets of Tokyo into a district which does not figure on any map, and the film becomes a journey into the subconscious. A young woman offers a necktie to a stranger whom she meets in a café, asking him to look for a friend of hers who has gone missing and who obsessively stole the ties of random drunk strangers. The physical object “tie” literally creates a tie between them, influencing the man’s behaviour and self-image. The theme of the film Necktie had a number of sources, as Shichiri explained to me. He did research on the origins of the garment in 17th century France, was inspired by the importance it had for Oscar Wilde, and was further motivated by an anecdote told to him by Takahashi Tetsuya concerning a love story in which ties played a crucial role. During the Thirty Years’ War, the knotted handkerchiefs worn by Croatian mercenaries aroused the interest of young Louis XIV. These cravats were presents given to the soldiers by their wives or lovers as protection, and they also served as a means to identify the dead on the battlefield. In these sources, ties have a dramatic function or are related to identity, and Shichiri explores both aspects in his short film, which is infused with mystery.

Music as Film

The key-figure in the third film is Salome. The voices revolve around the figures of a mother, a daughter and an absent father, whose identities remain as unclear as their relationship to each other. The relationship is as dreamlike as that between the man and the woman behind the voices in Once Upon a Dream and the relationship between the characters who appear in Necktie. “Cinema made from sound” is a project on which Shichiri has been working since 2014. At the Lichtblick Cinema, the composer Adachi Tomomi performed the live act that accompanies parts of the film.
One of the key questions Shichiri asks in this film is: How are images transformed under the impact of changing music and sound? On the soundtrack, a number of voices recite and sing, and during a live performance, a variety of sounds created by the human voice and by electronic devices are added to this soundtrack of recorded music, sounds and voices. Two stories are narrated separately but simultaneously, one in sound, the other in images. The recorded voices relate the story of Salome as interpreted by Shichiri, and images of landscapes and objects intersect with text. The written words of this text refer to the history of the cinema and its evolution towards the digital era. Shichiri told me that he started thinking about changes to the image as a result of digitalization, which for him represents the greatest change in film history. He compares the digital image with aliens taking on human form in films such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers (USA, Donald Siegel, 1956), the digital image looking like the real thing but differing from the original in significant details. It is a fake image, shallow and devoid of essence.
To approach this topic and the questions it raises, Shichiri goes back to the very beginning of filmmaking, showing in a fascinating way that film was never silent, that there was always musical accompaniment or surrounding noises. He does not need to explain this in words, and instead demonstrates it by means of a polymorphic soundtrack and sound environment and the association of images with written text. Here again, he makes use of dissociative as well as associative elements. Image and sound seem separated but are also closely connected, as if allowing the viewer to “listen to the image” (a phrase that Marguerite Duras used). Shichiri explained that the idea of connecting the Salome motif with reflections on the infancy of the cinema was born when he learned about Oscar Wilde’s play Salome, premiered in Paris in 1896, a few months after the first film screening by Louis and Auguste Lumière.
In our conversation, Shichiri emphasized that Salome is a prominent figure in 19th century literature and art, inspiring Heinrich Heine and Oscar Wilde as well as painters such as the French symbolist Gustave Moreau, whose painting “Salome” (1876) was the inspiration for Wilde’s play. According to Shichiri, the figure of Salome is closely connected with the birth of the cinema, and this connection is illustrated in the film not only by historical facts but also by allusions. One of these is expressed by the idea of the cut, and there are several references to cuts. In one sequence a male head is displayed on a concrete block near the sea. During the screening, I could not help associating this image of Jokanaan’s head with the process of editing, or “Schnitt” (cut) in German. And Shichiri told me that he had indeed been toying with that idea. Editing is a very cinematic device which is omnipresent in the elaborate fragmentation operating at all levels in Shichiri’s films, and it extends well beyond the usual editing of the photographic and sound material to include sounds from the space in which the film is shown. Music as Film brings together the dramatic story of Salome, who seeks to possess Jokanaan with a different form of possession, which is discussed at a theoretical level and addresses the question of when music first came to film – a man (film) seeking to possess a woman (music). The ancient story of Salome, her desire, and the violence of the biblical tale confronts the written text on-screen referring to the emergence of cinema. The water – the ocean – is a reminder of birth and the womb. Shots of the roaring sea filmed from a cavern have an archaic quality and evoke the strange encounter between the ancient Salome story, which provided a topic for the arts – literature and painting – at the end of the 19th century, and the modern age with the emergence of the cinema, inventions such as the car, and the birth of psychoanalysis. And as we know, psychoanalysis relies on many images familiar from mythological sources and has given them new perspectives. Moreover, the symbol of waves on the surface of the sea reminds us that both sound and light are also waves, waves which are fundamental to cinema.
Music as Film presents a number of different layers of time which meet each other, fuse into each other or resist each other. Shichiri tells stories of creation in which film becomes the starting point to explore cinema and reality, image and sound. What we see – and the text points to this – are images. Shichiri’s work offers a concentrated, but necessary reflection on images and sound which requires intense sensitive and intellectual engagement but without ever forcing us, and we can nevertheless take pleasure in the harmonies and disharmonies of which all three films are made.

Shichiri Kei-Portrait

i)I would like to thank Professor Shibutani Tetsuya for his kind support. He not only suggested that I should present Shichiri Kei with a variety of questions but was also kind enough to act as translator.

ii)The interview which Shichiri Kei kindly agreed to give me took place on 4 March 2020 in Berlin and provided some important clues for this article, for which I am very grateful.

L_Heritage_des_500_000

 

by Andrea Grunert

I was pursuing research on Toshirō Mifune, when, by happy coincidence, Carlotta Films released in French cinemas(1) a restored version of Gojūman-nin no isan [The Legacy of the 500,000(2)]. Made in 1963, it was co-produced by Mifune’s own production company Mifune Productions, which had been founded the previous year, and Takarazuka, a branch of Tōhō in Osaka. Mifune plays the lead, taking on the triple task of director-producer-actor. The screenplay was written by Ryūzō Kikushima, who, like Mifune, frequently collaborated with Akira Kurosawa, co-writing the scripts of Stray Dog (Nora inu, 1949), Throne of Blood (Kumonosu-jō, 1957), Yojimbo (Yōjinbō, 1961) and several other films by the great director. Other members of the Kurosawa group supported Mifune’s directorial debut – the actors Tatsuya Mihashi, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Yoshio Tsuchiya and Tatsuya Nakadai, cinematographer Takao Saito, art director Yoshiro Muraki, sound engineer Fumio Yanoguchi and script supervisor Teruyo Nogami. Kurosawa, whose name does not appear in the credits, contributed to the editing and insisted on some additional shots. The film is Mifune’s only venture into directing, a decision which he described as follows: “Unfortunately, I never had the budget that allows for [Kurosawa’s level of] perfection. I [wanted] to grow and improve as an actor, and I was less than happy with [the film]. I decided [from then on] to let the producer produce, the director direct, and the actor act.”(3)

Adventure and inner journey

Gojūman-nin no isan is a combination of adventure tale and gangster film. Most of the story is set in the Philippines on the ancient battlefields in the mountains of Northern Luzon, where a group of five Japanese men are looking for a cache of gold abandoned by the retreating Imperial Japanese Army in 1944. This conventional plot is linked to the remembrance of World War II in post-war Japan, a narrative strategy that successfully retains the attention of both viewer and reviewer. The first shots are archive pictures from the war. In the following sequences, the shots of modern buildings and the dense traffic in the streets give insights into a modern Japan which has recovered economically from the disaster of the war. The former soldiers Takeichi Matsuo (Mifune) and Mitsura Gunji (Tatsuya Nakadai) are now successful businessmen, representatives of the rising Japanese post-war economy. Memories of the war establish the link between the two men, who at a dinner in a restaurant recall an earlier occasion when they had dinner in Manchuria during the Japanese occupation. When he returns to the Philippines, Matsuo is continually reminded of the war, an experience he shares with the older men in the group. In a cave, the Japanese adventurers discover the relics of past atrocities – skulls and skeletons of dead Japanese soldiers. They even meet a Japanese man who managed to survive by marrying a woman of the Igorot tribe. The five Japanese men have entered the Philippines secretly, and the fact that they wear military uniforms, pretending to be Japanese-Americans working for the U.S. army, is a further reminder of the war. The other members of the group even call Matsuo “commander” despite his protestations: “Stop calling me commander. I am not a military man anymore.” The plot evolves towards violence and death, with the situation becoming more and more warlike as the men are chased by an unknown enemy in a hostile environment, and survival is their only goal.

Believing that Matsuo, the only survivor of his unit, knows where the treasure of gold coins left by the retreating Japanese troops is hidden, Gunji has no qualms about kidnapping his former comrade. However, Matsuo is unwilling to help him find the gold and it is only when Gunji threatens the life of his daughter that he agrees to participate in the expedition. Gunji represents the ruthless type of businessman whose activities are close to crime. In contrast, Matsuo is depicted as honest and responsible, nursing the feverish Keigo (Tatsuya Mihashi) during the perilous journey and taking care of the young Tsukuda (Tsutomo Yamazaki). His relationship with this rebellious youth is reminiscent of Kurosawa’s Drunken Angel (Yoidore tenshi, 1948) and the conflict-laden relationship in that film between the young yakuza Matsunaga (played by Mifune) and the elderly Dr. Sanada (Takashi Shimura), who wants to rescue him from his criminal lifestyle. Like Sanada, Matsuo believes in humanity and tries to convince the cynics Tsukuda and Keigo that no human being is completely evil. Mifune’s natural charm reinforces his portrayal of this character perfectly. As in Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well (Waru yatsu hodo yoko nemuru, 1960), his role is that of an ordinary man, and far from being a superhero as in Yojimbo, he is nevertheless a courageous man whose experience and knowledge of the unknown territory is vital for his team.

Traumatic memories

The search for the cache of gold is the starting point of the adventure, which despicts an inner journey in which the present joins the past – a past which still lingers. Matsuo admits that he has forgotten the war, but by retracing the route taken by his soldiers back to the hiding place, memory becomes overwhelming. He is reminded of the horror he experienced in the “Valley of Death”, and this becomes once again a presence, which he describes in vivid terms, the close-ups of his face revealing Matsuo’s inner torment. His memory of past violence is an indicator of the gap between the generations, and Tsukuda is annoyed by the war stories of the older members of the group. Matsuo cannot accept the young man’s claim that the chaos of the post-war years was the worst anyone could experience, insisting that these years were nothing compared to the horror of the war.

Memories of war are clearly focused on the Japanese losses. The victims of the Imperial Japanese Army are referred to only once, when Matsuo warns his companions of the Igorot, whose villages were plundered by the Japanese during the war(4) The film’s title – The Legacy of the 500,000 [men] – reveals that its main concern is with the legacy (isan) of the soldiers, namely the 500,000, who perished in the Philippines. Mifune’s film is part of a series of Japanese war films made in the 1950s and 1960s which re-establish the figure of the Japanese soldier by humanizing it. In films such as the great box-office success Attack Squadron! (Taiheyō no tsubasa, Shūe Matsubayashi), released the same year as Gojūman-nin no isan, or Retreat from Kiska (Taiheiyō kiseki no sakusen: Kisuka, Seiji Maruyama), released two years later, Mifune plays characters who are courageous and with whom the viewer can identify – men and officers eager to protect the soldiers under their command or determined to rescue the Japanese unit left on the remote island of Kiska.

Gojūman-nin no isan is in accord with a memory culture concerned with salvation, a prominent topic of Japanese cinema in the early 1960s. But are there such things as “good” or “bad” memories? Western criticism often points a finger at the way Japanese seem oblivious to the atrocities committed by their military during the war in China, the Pacific, and South East Asia, including the Philippines. However, such criticism is surely as one-sided as the attitude it targets. Isn’t it too simply to put the blame on Mifune, whose memory can only be selective? The film is first of all a vehicle for his heroic star image, and it was something of a surprise that Mifune also directed it, which was coincidental rather than a deliberate choice.(5) However, behind this there is surely the personal concern of a man who was drafted at the age of nineteen in 1939, and who was left six years later with his own remorse, anger and wounds. As for many of his fellow Japanese, the war was for him a traumatic experience which could not be ignored that easily.(6) Gojūman-nin no isan highlights the relationship between the living and the dead when Matsuo, his body stiffened under the weight of his grief, states: “I simply feel responsible for being alive.” And perhaps Mifune felt the same way, with patriotic feelings but also deep concern. Refiguring the past from his individual viewpoint and experience,(7) it is his way of mourning which lingers under the more spectacular surface of the narrative. In a rather humble manner, the film is part of the “multivocal struggle over national legacy and the meaning of being Japanese”(8). The violence which the actor or and many other soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army suffered is an undeniable part of war memory and serves as a reminder for a society which is distancing itself more and more from its violent past. Gojūman-nin no isan makes critical reference to a materialistic society by exploring human behaviour and by targeting greed through the tale of the ill-fated expedition. An adventure film thereby turns into a moral tale about the human condition. The ambiguous figure of the American who pulls the strings behind the scenes represents the winner in the war and the political and economic power which continues to influence Japanese post-war society, a power as invisible as the man himself. The motivation of this enigmatic American remains unclear, and having killed Matsuo and his team and taken the booty, he says: “Now I can finally go home.” Is his aim not simply material gain but also a final act of revenge? Or is he the ultimate winner who takes all? The ending is abrupt, but it nevertheless reveals the futility of violence as its central theme. The death of the five men in the jungle, their unidentified corpses scattered on the empty beach in a foreign country within sight of their ship (ironically called “Hope“) has nothing heroic about it. It points to the meaninglessness of the war deaths. It seems that salvation is only possible in death, but even then is an illusion, for the past cannot be suppressed.

 

1)The film was released on 3 April 2019.

2)The film – in the USA also known as 500,000 – had a limited release in U.S. cinemas in 1964.

3)Quoted from Stuart Galbraith IV, The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune, New York/London, Faber & Faber, 2002, p. 368-369.

4)There is some ambiguity about the treasure known as “Yamashita’s gold” and named after General Tomoyuki Yamashita (1885-1946), who led the Japanese forces during the invasion of Malaya and the Battle of Singapore. He was given task of defending the Philippines, occupied by the Japanese, from the advancing Allied forces in 1944, and fled with his Area Army to the mountainous region of Northern Luzon. There is no proof of the existence of the treasure, which is supposed to have been the loot of the Imperial Army from various campaigns in South East Asia. The film, however, refers to “Yamashita’s gold” as a cache of gold coins minted and shipped from Japan to stabilize the peso (the Philippine currency) in 1942. (See Galbraith, op. cit., p. 365 and Teruyo Nogami, Waiting on the Weather: Making Movies with Akira Kurosawa, Berkeley, Ca., Stone Bridge Press, 2001, p. 244). This version makes Matsuo’s wish to return the gold to the families of the dead Japanese soldiers morally understandable.

5)See Nogami, op. cit. for further details, p. 247.

6)See the statements of Mifune’s son Shirō in the documentary film Mifune: The Last Samurai (2016, Steven Okazaki).

 

7)Mifune had no experience of the front. He was first sent to Manchuria, assigned to the film unit of the 7th Flying Squad of the so-called Kwantung Army. In 1941, he was transferred to the 8th Flying Squad’s educational department. When the Japanese troops retreated, he was sent to Yokkaichi, in Mie Prefecture. During the last months of the war, he was stationed at Kumanosho air base on Kyushū Island where he had to serve the last sake to departing kamikaze pilots. In several interviews he recalled how often he was beaten because of his rebellious character or simply because his deep voice did not please his superiors.

8)Akiko Hashimoto, The Long Defeat: Cultural Trauma, Memory, and Identity in Japan, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015, p. 9.

  

 

Meine wunderbar seltsame Woche mit den Filmen von Rima Das, Kim Bo-ra und Andrew Ahn in der Berlinale-Generation

 

I.Version 2

 

Ich war lange Zeit nicht sicher, ob ich an dieser Berlinale überhaupt teilnehmen will. Das hat viele Gründe, nicht nur, dass ich im Grossen und Ganzen der immer lauter werdenden Kritik an der Festivalleitung zustimme. Den Potsdamer Platz habe ich von Anfang an gehasst. Seit Jahren aber konzentriere ich mich nur noch auf die Filme.

Dass ich mich dann doch noch (für meine Begriffe sehr spät) für die Berlinale entschieden habe, verdanke ich den ersten Pressemeldungen der Berlinale-Generation, als ein indischer Film, Bulbul can sing von Rima Das angekündigt wurde. In den Titel hatte ich mich schon verliebt bevor ich ein wenig recherchiert habe, wer denn Rima Das sei und worum es in diesem Film überhaupt geht.

Dann habe ich mich daran erinnert, dass mich gerade in den letzten 3 Jahren doch vor allem einige sogenannte Kinder,-und Jugendfilme am meisten begeistert haben und ich schon immer mehr von dieser Festivalsparte sehen wollte. Dank Rima Das, habe ich mich fast ganz auf diese Sparte konzentriert.

Das Schöne an diesem Teil des Festivals ist, sie erinnert mich ein wenig an die unverstellte Begeisterung für Filme, bevor sie oft in Posen und gelegentlich Voreingenommenheit erstarrt. Dass diese Sektion immer noch nicht genug beachtet wird, ist nicht allein der Unübersichtlichkeit des Festivals zuzuschreiben.

Cinephilie hat natürlich etwas mit Kindheit und Jugend zu tun.

Meine Entscheidung mich auf die Kinder,-und Jugendfilme zu konzentrieren, hat sich schnell ausgezahlt. Es mag ja sein, dass eine Rima Das, eine Kim Bo-ra oder ein Andrew Ahn von der Presse als weniger wichtig betrachtet werden als Angela Schanelec, Fatih Akin etc. Der Mainstream in der Filmpresse ist nicht weniger verwerflich als das, was Festivalleitung und auch die Stadt Berlin aus der Berlinale in den letzten 15 Jahren gemacht haben.

Im letzten Jahr und zwar in der Generation14plus hatte ein deutscher Film seine Welturaufführung, 303, von Hans Weingartner. Auf dem Festival hatte ich den Film verpasst, aber bei seinem Kinostart im Juli hat mich der Film völlig verzaubert. Da ich im letzten Jahr ein paar mehr deutsche Filme gesehen habe als für mich üblich, kann ich es ja sagen: 303 war das Beste was ich aus Deutschland gesehen habe. Allenfalls Andreas Dresen´s schöner und kluger Film Gundermann kann da noch mithalten.

II.

In diesem Jahr wo ich mich ganz auf die Kinder, und Jugendfilme konzentriert habe (und trotzdem noch eine Handvoll Filme verpasst habe, die ich gerne gesehen hätte), ist meine Berlinale-Teilnahme zu einer richtigen Reise geworden. Das war ein bisschen wie meine Indien-Reise im letzten Jahr. Das war das Jahr, in dem mein Vater starb und der unheimliche Gedanke, dass der Tod mit zunehmendem Alter auch für mich ein wenig näher gerückt ist wurde ein wenig gemildert, indem ich mich mehrmals mit Weingartners wunderbarem 303 getröstet habe.

In Bombay spät in der Nacht hatte ich einige traurige Anrufe. Meine Schwester teilte mir mir, dass es meinem jüngsten Bruder wieder sehr schlecht gehe und er wieder im Krankenhaus sei. Am gleichen Abend hatte ich erfahren, dass eine sehr liebe Freundin sehr krank ist. Normalerweise wären das sehr gute Gründe eine Reise abzubrechen. Aber ich hatte das seltsame Gefühl, dass ich gerade in Indien und ganz besonders zu dieser Zeit sehr gut aufgehoben war, eine Kultur, die bei allen Problemen die sie hat in diesem Moment der richtige Ort war, um mit Trauer oder der Angst um die Menschen, die man liebt, umzugehen.

III.

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Auf dem ersten Blick ist Bulbul can sing ein Independent-Film mit einem geringen Budget und sonstigen Problemen, mit denen sich Filmemacher ausserhalb der Filmindustrie herumschlagen müssen. Auf den zweiten Blick ist der Film ein Wunder, das über all diese Hindernisse und Probleme triumphiert.

Aber je mehr ich versuche all das zu benennen, was dieser Film ist, je mehr fällt mir ein. Bulbul can sing ist so vieles auf einmal. Der Film atmet den Geist der frühen Filmpioniere, ist aber gleichzeitig ein Wegweiser für Möglichkeiten eines Kinos, das ausserhalb der kommerziellen Filmindustrie überleben, existieren will. Rima Das ist auch ein wenig wie die in Japan geborene Koreanerin Yang Yonghi, die vor allem erst einmal Geschichten erzählen will, die ganz eng mit dem Teil der Welt und Geschichte verbunden sind, in dem sie selbst verwurzelt ist. Beide Frauen sind Autodidakten und arbeiten zunächst mit geringen Mitteln, bei denen so manch ein Filmstudent streiken würde. Aber das, was sie fast allein durch ihre Leidenschaft hervorbringen, ist schon auf fast unheimliche Art grosses Kino. Diese Filme verweisen gleichzeitig auf die lange und reiche Geschichte des Films und auf Möglichkeiten der Zukunft. In meiner Besprechung von Bulbul can sing, habe ich den Film, gerade in seiner unendlichen Liebe für alles, was lebt, mit Jean Renoir und Terrence Malick verglichen. Ein weiterer Name fällt mir ein, ein weniger bekannter Meister des Japanischen Kinos, Hiroshi Shimizu, mit dem sie ganz sicher die Vorliebe für Aufnahmen unter freiem Himmel und die Arbeit mit vorwiegend jungen Laiendarstellern teilt. Wie Shimzu arbeitet Das nicht einfach nur mit jungen Darstellern, ihr filmischer Blick nimmt deren Frische und Spontaneität auf.

Vielleicht ist Bulbul can sing nicht einfach ein „Coming of Age“-Drama, das in einem Dorf in Assam spielt. Die ganze Filmerfahrung wird zur Coming of Age-Erfahrung. Man wird entweder (wie Rima Das) selbst ein wenig zu Bulbul, Bonnie oder Suman, oder man empfindet überhaupt nichts. Der Fluss, in dem die drei Jugendlichen baden ist vielleicht ein schönes Bild für meine Filmerfahrung: man taucht in den Film ein, gibt sich seinen Elementen hin oder „der Fluss geht über einen hinweg ohne einen nass zu machen“ (André Bazin ein seiner leidenschaftlichen Verteidigung von Renoir´s The River)

Bulbul can sing ist ein Film, der eine ganz konkrete kulturell und geographisch verortete Landschaft mit dem Universum des Kinos verbindet, so wie das spezifisch Amerikanische von John Ford oder Terrence Malick, das spezifisch Japanische von Ozu oder Shimizu oder ein spezifisches Kapitel in der Geschichte Indiens in den Filmen von Ritwik Ghatak universell erfahrbar wird. Die Zartheit mit der der Film von Rima Das von Menschen, Lebewesen und Landschaften erzählt ist die Zartheit und Verletzlichkeit des Films selbst. Und dabei glaube ich noch so ziemlich am Anfang zu sein in meiner Entdeckung dieses Wunders von Rima Das. Das ist schon fast eine Tour de force zwischen dem, wovon der Film ganz konkret handelt, den Gefühlen und Erinnerungen, die er in mir hervorruft und die Momente, wie der Film zu wunderbarem Kino wird.

Am Ende sitzen Bulbul und die Mutter der verstorbenen Freundin am Fluss und erinnern sich an die Tote. Der Verlust einer geliebten Person ist etwas, was man ganz einfach persönlich nachvollziehen kann. Dieser Moment ist eingerahmt in einer der imposantesten Landschaftsaufnahmen des Films, der mir sehr lange in Erinnerung bleiben wird.

IV.

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Ein anderer Film, der mir im Nachhinein ganz ähnlich unter die Haut gegangen ist war Beol-Sae (House of Hummingbird/ Haus des Kolibris). In meiner englischen Kritik habe ich den Film als feministisches Pendant zu Hou hsiao Hsien´s autobiografischem Tong Nien Wang shi (Eine Zeit zu leben, Eine Zeit zu sterben) bezeichnet. Auch hier geht es mir wie bei dem Film von Rima Das: die Worte, die einem auf die Schnelle einfallen, hinken oft dem gewaltigen Eindruck hinterher, den der Film hinterlassen hat. Doch die Spur, die ich in der Besprechung aufgegriffen habe, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Ozu und Naruse erscheint mir immer noch als eine, die mir weiterhilft. Ich habe es zwar geahnt, aber erst später erfahren, Kim Bo-ra´s Film ist tatsächlich autobiografisch inspiriert.

Die Intensität, mit dem ich diesen Film gesehen habe, war anders als bei Bulbul can sing. Zuerst war eine etwas gedämpfte Bewunderung für Bo-ra´s unglaublich reifem Umgang mit langen Einstellungen oder diese seltsame episodische Struktur, die auf den ersten Blick nur aus Alltagsmomenten gebaut zu sein scheint. Auch der Vergleich in meinem Text mit „einem grossen Strom, der träge dahinfliesst aber voller Untiefen ist, erscheint mir als ein guter Zugang zu dem Film. Denn während der Film so in aller Ruhe dahinplätschert, merkt man kaum, dass die Intensität langsam aber stetig zunimmt. Vieles, was einem als beiläufig erscheint, verdichtet sich gegen Ende immer mehr. Das, was einem der Film nicht aufdrängt aber dezent andeutet, gewinnt zunehmend an Bedeutung. Wenn Rima Das mich vor allem an Renoir, Malick und Ghatak erinnert hat, und zwar in diesem ständigen Wechsel zwischen dem, was mich an ihrem Film als Film beeindruckt und dem, was mich unmittelbar und auch ziemlich direkt berührt, erinnert mich Kim Bo-ra eher an die zum Minimalismus tendierenden formalistischen Meister Ozu, Dreyer, Hou Hsiao Hsien und gelegentlich auch Straub und Huillet. Es gibt hier oft Einstellungen, die nicht nur lang und statisch sind, sondern wo die Protagonisten für einen Moment fast unbeweglich wie zu einem Foto erstarren. Auch das habe ich in meinem englischen Text so beschrieben, wie ich es gesehen habe, aber was das manchmal bei mir ausgelöst hat, davon habe ich nicht geschrieben. Es gibt da einen Moment, wo die 14-jährige Eunhee im Krankenhaus liegt. Hinter ihrem Ohr hat man einen Knoten gefunden, ob eine Zyste oder ein Tumor, das erfährt man nicht. In diesem Augenblick sieht man sie ruhig nahezu unbeweglich in ihrem Bett liegen. Anstelle die Szene zu schneiden wird dieser Moment seltsam gedehnt. Eunhee wird diese Krankheit überleben und wie ich ja später herausgefunden habe ist diese Figur ja wohl als Alter Ego von Kim Bo-ra gedacht. Ich habe eine ganz unerklärliche Angst gehabt, dass Eunhee sterben wird. Auch ist dieser Moment eine seltsame Betonung, dass es hier auch um Geschichte geht, die 1990er Jahre in Seoul und diese hochkomplexe Wechselwirkung zwischen Geschichte und menschlichen Individuen. Die Katastrophe am Ende des Films, hat dann auch zwei Effekte, zuerst ein tragisches Ereignis, was sich in die Geschichte des Landes eingeprägt hat, dann aber auch ein Ereignis was weit bis in die Privatsphäre der Protagonistin drastische Auswirkungen hat. Ein seltsames Gefühl bleibt zurück, das Bewusstsein, dass der Film von der Vergangenheit erzählt und einige der Personen wenn nicht gestorben so doch wenigstens gestorben sein könnten. Das Erstarren der Personen manchmal zu einem reinen Bild hat auch einen ähnlichen Effekt wie die umgekehrten Zooms in Stanley Kubrick´s Barry Lyndon.

Durch die erste Hälfte habe ich mich ein wenig mit dem sogenannten Kennerblick ( der leider nie ganz frei von Eitelkeit ist) bewegt, dann zunehmend nahm mich das durch die Schicht der schon fast monströsen formalen Virtuosität hindurchscheinende empathische Element des Films gefangen und ich hatte – verdammt noch mal – einfach nur noch Tränen in den Augen.

V.

201917269_1

Eine Filmerfahrung, die irgendwo, zwischen der mit Kim Bo-ra´s und Rima Das´Filmen liegt war Driveways von Andrew Ahn, der dritte von meinen drei Lieblingsfilmen dieses Kinder,- und Jungendfilmfestivals.

Hier hatte ich allerdings einige Mühe meine englische Besprechung zu schreiben. Das lag nicht daran, dass ich in dem Film nicht genug gesehen habe, sonder gerade weil ich ein paar Sachen gesehen habe, die nicht nur sehr stark auf mich gewirkt haben, sondern denen ich manchmal etwas hilflos gegenüberstand. Es war natürlich Zufall, wenn mich die Körperhaltung von Brian Dennehy´s wunderbarem Del an meinen Vater erinnerte. Es wird nie direkt angesprochen aber es ist klar, Del ist so ziemlich am Ende seines Lebens angelangt. Die asiatisch-amerikanische Frau Kathy und ihr Sohn Cody unternehmen eine Reise zum Haus der kürzlich verstorbenen Schwester/Tante. Das Haus muss entrümpelt werden und dann zum Verkauf angeboten werden. Gleich die erste Einstellung von den unendlich vollgestellten Wohnräumen hat mir dann auch fast die Beine weggezogen. Der zurückbleibende Besitz der Toten hat etwas unglaublich trauriges. Aus dem Kontext gelöst, wirkt es wie Abfall, sobald die Besitzerin nicht mehr ist. Das andere, was mich eher indirekt und auf abstrakte Weise berührt hat ist dass Kathy, Cody, Del, dessen alternde Tochter oder einige Nachbarn samt ihrer Kinder ein wenig die verschiedenen Altersstufen eine Menschenlebens repräsentieren. Hier begegnet das „Coming of Age“ -Drama den untrüglichen Zeichen von Vergänglichkeit, Abschied und Sterblichkeit. Der Film erzählt von Orten und Räumen in denen man sich entweder zu Hause fühlt oder die einem fremd, fast unheimlich sind. Ich liebe die Veranden auf denen Kathy, Cody und Del sich oft zusammensetzen, dieser Zwischenort zwischen öffentlicher und privater Sphäre. Sie sind ein wenig wie die Eisenbahn oder das Auto in den Road Movies vor allem dem Kino verwandte Orte. Die Welt, wie sie von den Protagonisten wahrgenommen wird kann variieren zwischen der Sicht auf die Welt von Del, Kathy oder Cody, alle drei Perspektiven haben hier ihren Raum. Das liegt vielleicht daran, dass der Filme auch von Räumen erzählt, Räume die bewohnt, verlassen oder vorübergehend nicht bewohnbar sind. Die verschiedenen Lebensstufen repräsentiert von Cathy, Cody und Dell (und noch von ein paar weiteren Charakteren) sind auch wie Räume. Von jedem Raum aus hat man eine andere Perspektive auf die Welt und das trifft auch sehr auf die drei Hauptprotagonisten des Films zu. Man kann auch in diesen „Räumen“ von einem zum anderen gelangen. Schon allein deshalb, weil die Poesie des Films, wenn ich denn Namen nennen will, für mich irgendwo zwischen dem Amerikaner John Ford und dem Japaner Yasujiro Ozu anzusiedeln ist.

Selbstverständlich hat es noch andere Filme gegeben, die mir gefallen haben. Ich habe mich lediglich auf die drei Filme konzentriert, die mich am meisten beschäftigt haben. Am Ende habe ich mir zum Beispiel den wunderschönen Mijn Bijzonder Rare Week met Tess (Meine wunderbar seltsame Woche mit Tess) von Steven Wouterlood gegönnt. Holland ist wie die skandinavischen Länder ein Land, das so etwas wie eine Tradition der Kinder,- und Jugendfilme pflegt, die bis weit in meine eigene Kindheit zurückreicht. Seit Jahren zeigt die Generation-Sektion auch immer mal wieder einen Film aus Quebec, diesmal den ebenfalls sehr schönen Une Colonie von Geneviève Dulude De Celles. Zwei Filme aus dem eher experimentellen Flügel dieser Sektion waren Kinder von Nina Wesemann und By the Name of Tania von Bénédicte Liénard und Mary Jimenez. Ich erwähne diese Filme vor allem deshalb weil sie (Gut nehmen wir dann auch noch Cleo von Eric Schmitt dazu), weil doch schon eine Handvoll dieser Filme ein recht grosses Spektrum des Kinos präsentieren. Die klassischen Gesichtspunkte wonach mit welchen Film für welche Festivalsparte auswählt erscheint mir hier weit weniger gekünstelt, die Vielfalt organischer. Bulbul can sing zum Beispiel ist meines Erachtens das beste was die Berlinale aus Indien seit Pushpendra Singh´s Lajwanti (Forum 2014) gezeigt hat.

Mein „Umzug“ in die Kinder,- und Jugendsparte des Festivals hat vielleicht auch noch ganz andere Gründe. Ist es der enge Kontakt zu den Wurzeln der eigenen Liebe zum Kino? Ich kenne kaum einen Cinephilen, der die Ursprünge seine Liebe zum Kino nicht in seiner Kindheit bzw. frühen Jugend hat. Das klingt natürlich nach einem Gemeinplatz, erscheint mir aber trotzdem immer noch als richtig. Diese Rückbesinnung geht bei mir schon seit einiger Zeit. Es begann damit, dass ich mir viele Filme wieder angeschaut habe, die ich als sehr junger Mensch geliebt habe. Bei einigen Filmen klappt das nicht mehr, einige aber sehe ich heute in einem neuen Licht. Es ist die Erinnerung, dass Kino einmal ein wichtiges soziales Erlebnis war. In gewisser Weise begibt man sich doch an einen Ort, wo viele Menschen ihre ganz unterschiedlichen Ängste, Träume und Hoffnungen erleben. Ein ganz besonderes Erlebnis hatte ich 2017 mit dem Film Loving Lorna von Annika und Jessica Karlsson. Der war in der Sektion Generation 14plus zu sehen. Und ich hatte das Glück ihn im Zoo-Palast zu sehen, einem der letzten echten Kinotempel in Berlin. Da kam viel zusammen. Natürlich hat mich dieser Dokumentarfilm ( wo es um eine Arbeiterfamilie in einem Vorort von Dublin geht)vor allem berührt weil er mich an meine Herkunft erinnerte. Mir passierte mit dem Film etwas ähnliches wie mit den Filmen von Ozu: Obwohl es um eine ganz alltägliche Familie geht, verband sich vieles zu diesem sehr speziellen Erlebnis. Die Haltung der beiden Filmemacherinnen, die den sehr engen Grat zwischen Zuneigung und Diskretion meistert, das, was der Film in mir hervorruft – und dann fand auch noch alles in diesem Meisterwerk an Kinoarchitektur, dem Zoo-Palast statt!

An diesen Eindruck musste ich auch in diesem Jahr wieder denken, weil er doch so nah an meinen diesjährigen Filmerlebnissen ist. In der Generation werden ausschliesslich neue Filme gezeigt, Rückblicke wie in fast allen anderen Sektionen gibt es nicht.  Doch habe ich gerade hier bei vielen Filmen den Eindruck noch mal einen Geschmack von dem zu bekommen, was Kino mal war und eigentlich immer noch sein könnte, was ja eigentlich eine der wichtigsten Aufgaben eines Filmfestivals sein soll.

Rüdiger Tomczak

Meine englischen Einzelkritiken, darunter 6 über Filme aus Generationkplus und Generation14plus sind in meinem shomingekiblog zu finden.

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(For the English version, please click here

I

Das sind Dinge, die man entdeckt, wenn man in die Welt hinaus wandert: indem man das Leben anderer Menschen kennenlernt, beginnt man das eigene in einem neuen Licht zu sehen.“ (aus dem Roman Geh, zügle den Sturm von Joan Aiken)

Ich bin einer seltsamen Intuition gefolgt als ich mir den Film in einem der schönsten Filmtheater in Berlin, dem „International“ zum ersten Mal angeschaut habe. Ich hatte nicht erwartet, daß mich der Film so bezaubern, berühren und nachhaltig beschäftigen sollte. Ich mußte mir 303 kurz danach ein zweites Mal ansehen.

Der Film ist vor allem ein Road Movie, jene nicht so eindeutig zu definierende Genremischung, wo die Filme gleichbedeutend sind mit den Reisen (den geographischen wie den seelischen), von denen ihre Bilder erzählen. Natürlich ruft das in mir zuerst einmal Erinnerungen an Reisen hervor, die ich selbst einmal gemacht habe wie etwa endlos lange Autofahrten mit Freunden in Frankreich oder Kanada. Gleichzeitig haben diese Filme auch immer mit meiner Liebe zum Kino zu tun. Oft sind es ein Zug, ein Auto, oder wie hier ein altes Mercedes-Wohnmobil, die als Metapher für die Maschinen stehen, mit denen Filme gemacht und projiziert werden. Doch zunächst einmal sind es Erinnerungen an meine Campingreisen, die der Film in mir hervorruft. Das war in einer Zeit, als die beiden jungen Hauptdarsteller noch nicht einmal geboren worden sind. Das alte Campingmobil soll 30 Jahre alt sein und es verbindet mich auf seltsame Weise mit den jungen Leuten, die meine Kinder sein könnten.

Dieses seltsame Gefühl von Erwartung vor einer langen Reise, das Versprechen von Freiheit und unendlichen Möglichkeiten kam zurück und hat mich, während ich den Film sah, gefühlte 30 Jahre jünger gemacht. Der Film und die Metapher für seine Maschinen sind für mich zur Zeitmaschine geworden, nicht allein in dem, was sie zeigen sondern auch in dem, was sie in mir hervorrufen.

Es gibt sehr viele Dialoge in diesem Film, die Weingartner über Jahre hinweg aus unzähligen Videointerviews mit jungen Leuten herausgearbeitet hat. Man kann es in vielen Interviews mit Weingartner nachlesen. Die Dialoge sind vorgegeben wie wie ein Rahmen, der dennoch niemals starr und unbeweglich erscheint. Sie wirken auch niemals künstlich oder gewollt, sondern wie gedacht, gefühlt und ausgesprochen von den jeweiligen Darstellern.

Das gilt auch für die Geschichte einer Reise, die genau so geplant und vorbereitet wurde. Doch auch hier ist die Wirkung fast entgegengesetzt. Es scheint als habe Weingartner einige Situationen entworfen, aus der sich alles weitere wie von selbst entwickeln wird:

  1. Jule ist Biologiestudentin. Gerade ist sie durch eine Zwischenprüfung gefallen. Im übrigen weiß sie, daß sie seit ein paar Wochen schwanger ist. Also steigt sie in das Campingmobil, das sie von ihrem toten Bruder geerbt hat und bricht auf nach Portugal, um ihren Freund über ihre Schwangerschaft zu informieren.
  2. Jan ist Politikwissenschaftsstudent und hat dieses Semester ebenfalls nicht allzu erfolgreich abgeschlossen. So will er sich per Anhalter und Bus auf den Weg nach Spanien machen, um seinen leiblichen Vater kennenzulernen. Nach erfolglosem Bemühen eine Mitfahrgelegenheit zu bekommen, trifft er auf einer Raststätte Jule, die ihn ein Stück mitnehmen will. Doch schon bald streiten sie sich nach einem scheinbar unverfänglichen Gespräch und trennen sich wieder.
  3. Der dritte erzählerische Ausgangspunkt, wenn wir wollen, die dritte Eröffnungsszene, findet erneut auf einem Rastplatz statt. Zwar hat Jan eine andere Mitfahrgelegenheit gefunden, hat aber sein Handy in Jules Auto vergessen. Tatsächlich sieht er ihren Campingbus auf diesem Rastplatz, klopft an und verhindert im letzten Moment, daß Jule von einem aufdringlichen Fremden vergewaltigt wird. Von jetzt an setzen sie die Reise wieder zusammen fort. Und genau von her an scheint der Film sich wie von selbst weiterzubewegen, ohne große Wendungen und so zuverlässig wie das alte Wohnmobil. Die Geschichte der Reise von Jule und Jan kann jetzt in Ruhe vor sich hin fließen.

Das ist sehr ähnlich wie in einem anderen grossen Road Movie, Aparna Sen´s Mr. And Mrs. Iyer. Beide, Aparna Sen wie Hans Weingartner spielen mit Traditionen und Konventionen des Road Movies, entwickeln aber daraus sehr schnell frei von Zitatensammlungen und Referenzen ihre ganz eigene Handschrift. Filmgeschichte wird nicht geplündert, sondern ein sehr vielschichtiger Dialog entsteht zwischen dem Film und dem, was er zeigt und der Tradition, die ihn hervorgebracht hat und von der er ein Teil sein wird. Darum erscheinen Filme wie 303 oder Mr. And Mrs. Iyer trotz all ihrer erfundenen Geschichten nahezu wie lebende Organismen. Wie gesagt – bei allem was ein Film wie 303 and Gedanken über die Welt oder an Erinnerungen hervorrufen kann – es läßt sich mit diesem Film auch wunderbar über das Kino philosophieren.

Die Straßen, die das Wohnmobil befährt, sind unzählige Male befahren, die Landschaften, die an dem Wohnmobil vorbei rauschen, tausendfach gesehen worden. Fast jeder kennt diesen Eindruck. 303 vermag es ohne erzwungene Originalität in jeder Einstellung dieses Wunder, das in meinen Erinnerungen gespeichert ist wieder lebendig werden zu lassen. Landschaften, Orte, Städte und Dörfer werden zu magischen Kinomomenten und es gibt nicht wenige Momente in diesem Film, die mich wieder zum staunenden Kind werden lassen. Dann kommt auch ganz schnell der Punkt, wo man dem Film blind vertraut. Und der Film lässt einen in dieser seltsamen Stimmung zwischen Wachen und Träumen. Man ist offen für alles, was dieser Film an Wundern noch bieten wird.

II.

Es gibt sehr lange Gespräche, oft auch kontroverse Diskussionen zwischen den beiden über Themen wie Kapitalismus und die Entfremdung, die er verursacht, über den Zustand der Menschheit von der Steinzeit bis heute, oder über die psychischen und vermeintlich hormonellen Mechanismen der Liebe. Dazwischen immer wieder Geschichten, die sie von sich selbst erzählen, die Stück für Stück das Mosaik dieser jungen Menschenleben zusammensetzen. Die Körpersprache der jungen Personen werden immer ungezwungener und entspannter. Die gesprochene Sprache und die nonverbale Sprache in Blicken und Gesten ergänzen sich gegenseitig. Es ist als öffnen sich Augen und Ohren für die Welt, die auf der Leinwand erscheint aber auch weit über die Begrenzungen erahnbar bleibt. Manche Gespräche sind sehr ernsthaft und oft in langen Einstellungen gefilmt. Manchmal aber können die Dialoge auch verspielt witzig sein. Doch immer wirken sie authentisch und nie ironisch distanziert. Allein wie sich die beiden von Anton Spieker und Mala Emde gespielten Charaktere annähern, ist ein filmisches Abenteuer für sich.

Und wenn der Abend kommt, ist es Zeit für gemeinsames Essen und Geschichten erzählen. Diese Momente haben etwas ursprüngliches, verweisen sie auf das uralte Bedürfnis , Geschichten von sich zu erzählen, aus denen ein Menschenleben schließlich besteht. In 303 erscheinen solche Augenblicke schon fast als mythische Momente die man im Kino kennt von John Ford bis Aparna Sen. Es sind oft einfache und alltägliche Momente in dem Film, die erscheinen so dicht, als wären sie bereits Erinnerungen an ein verlorenes Paradies.

Manchmal wird die Nähe zu den Figuren unterbrochen. Das sind kleine Momente, in denen die beiden Protagonisten sich uns entziehen. Einmal sieht man sie von hinten auf einer Bank sitzen, ein anderes Mal auf einem Felsbrocken stehend. Ihr Blick ist auf die Landschaft gerichtet wie auf eine imaginäre Leinwand. Auch das erinnert mich manchmal an die Filme von Aparna Sen. In den Momenten erscheinen sie fast so anonym wie der Kinozuschauer. Gleichzeitig scheinen sie fast unabhängig von uns und auch außerhalb der 145 Filmminuten zu existieren.Der Charme und die Frische des Films ist offensichtlich. Aber es gibt immer wider Momente, die erscheinen mir wie poetische Reflexionen zum Kino.

Ein wundervoller Moment, der mir sehr bezeichnend für die schlafwandlerische Schönheit des Films zu sein scheint: Einmal besichtigen Jule und Jan irgendwo in Südeuropa die uralte Malerei in einer eine Höhle der Cro-Magnon-Menschen. Vorher hatte Jule einen langen Vortrag über die Cro-Magnon Menschen gehalten. Jetzt sieht man die beiden diese wunderbare Malerei bestaunen. Das ist eine ganz unglaubliche Szene. Hier zeigt der Film, was Jule, Jan mit uns gemeinsam erleben. Sie blicken auf den Ursprung der Bilder, die Menschen von ihrer Welt gemacht haben. Die Höhlenmalerei wird zur Leinwand innerhalb der Leinwand. Man sieht nicht nur die beiden jungen Leute ein Wunder betrachten, dieser Augenblick wird selbst zu einem reinen Kinowunder, das mir unvergeßlich bleiben wird.

303 ist auch ein Film über die Entwicklung einer Freundschaft zwischen einem Mann und einer Frau. Zwar gibt es zwischen den beiden auch Momente von Liebe und Erotik, sie bleiben aber eine Möglichkeit von vielen. Diese erotischen Momente sind fein gestreut und manchmal eher erahnbar als offensichtlich. Auch das hat 303 mit Aparna Sen´s Meisterwerk gemein. Der Austausch von Blicken zwischen Mala Emde und Anton Spieker ist fein aufeinander abgestimmt und ausbalanciert. Sie werden weder zu Blickobjekten des jeweils anderen noch des Zuschauers. Ist es doch gerade dieses „Boy meets Girl“-Element, das in Filmen oft sehr schnell aus der Balance gerät. So erscheint Mala Emdes Darstellung fast als deutsches Pendant zu Konkona Sensharma´s Darstellung in Mr. And Mrs. Iyer vor allem in ihren Blicken, die soviel erzählen, wofür es keine Worte gibt. Unter anderem auch deshalb ist 303 für mich das schönste Road Movie seit Mr. And Mrs. Iyer.

Wäre der Film eine Stunde länger, man würde es kaum bemerken. Das einzige, was mich an dem Film wirklich stört, ist, daß er irgendwann mal zu Ende sein wird. Und ohne das Ende vorweg zu nehmen, möchte ich nur soviel sagen. Es hält, was der Film die ganze Zeit verspricht. Der Film vermittelt eine selten friedliche Koexistenz zwischen dem, was er zeigen will und dem, was er hervorruft. Wie gesagt, 303 ist ein Film, der von Möglichkeiten erzählt, vor allem Möglichkeiten in menschlichen Beziehungen, Möglichkeiten, sich zu bewegen und zu verändern. Und irgendwie werde ich auch das Gefühl nicht los, daß der Film auch eindrucksvoll zeigt, was im Kino immer noch möglich ist.

Immerhin, eine schöne Erinnerung an diesen Sommer 2018 wird mir bleiben, der Film 303 des Österreichers Hans Weingartner. Ich werde ihn noch öfter sehen.

Rüdiger Tomczak

 

medium

8e71aaa0-97ef-4db4-b8ce-ef7dcf4ad7fd
Ein Zug fährt von rechts nach links. Langsam und schwerfällig, eine Kurve beschreibend, bewegt er sich auf den Schienen, die ihn stur in eine Richtung führen. Wenig später betritt ein alter Mann ein Haus. Von einem Plattenspieler ist ein Lied zu hören, während Rajat, der Bewohner dieses Hauses auf dem Dach seine Habseligkeiten sortiert. Der Fremde überreicht ihm ein Bündel mit seltsamen Dokumenten und Fotografien von einer Frau und einem Kinderfoto des von Rajat. Sowie ein Eisenbahngleis manchmal in ein undurchschaubares Netz von Gleisen mündet, das sich in verschiedenen Richtungen verzweigt, beginnt sich der Ausgang einer ganz gewöhnlichen Geschichte in viele mögliche aufzulösen.
Rajat entführt mit einem Taxifahrer und einem Maler einen kleinen Jungen. Mit einem Auto fahren sie abgelegene Landstraßen entlang. Dabei begegnen sie verschiedenen Personen, die die Bewegung der Reise unterbrechen und durch ihre Präsenz die Geschichte für einen Moment in den Hintergrund treten lassen: Eine einsame Frau, die in einer Baracke an der Straße Tee und Nahrung verkauft, ein Mann mit einem spastisch gelähmten Kind, und ein gefesselter Mörder, der seine ganze Familie umgebracht hat.
Tagebuchaufzeichnungen Rajats, aus dem Off zitiert, die für sich schon eine Übereinanderlagerung von verschiedenen Zeitebenen sind. Völlig unvermittelt bricht an einigen Stellen die Tonspur ab, um ebenso überraschend wieder einzusetzen. Die Montage isoliert hier die einzelnen Sequenzen, läßt ihre Verknüpfungen als nicht zwangsläufig erscheinen. Kahini erscheint wie eine konventionell erzählte Geschichte, deren Verbindungselemente sich bereits zersetzt haben. In Wahrheit aber ist jeder Schnitt sehr präzise in seiner Absicht, die Kontinuität zu hinterfragen oder aufzulösen. Die Verwirrung, die entsteht, gleicht jener merkwürdigen Faszination, die es ist, beim Sehen eines Filmes oder dem Lesen eines Buches von Müdigkeit heimgesucht zu werden. Man ist unfähig kleinsten Zusammenhängen zu folgen. Der Film scheint sich völlig in seinen Momenten auszulösen, die ein größeres Gewicht bekommen, als die Handlung. An einer Stelle des Films sagt jemand in dem Vorführraum eines Kinos: „Schlaf und Kino haben etwas gemeinsam. Beide sehnen sich nach Dunkelheit.“
Am Ende kehrt der Film wieder an seinen Anfang zurück. Rajat betrachtet die Fotografien, die ihm der Fremde gebracht hat. Sein Kinderfoto erweist sich als identisch mit dem des entführten Jungen. Der Film könnte anders strukturiert noch einmal von neuem beginnen. So erscheint er jetzt als ein Geflecht von verwirrenden und widersprüchlichen Gedankengängen eines Schriftstellers, der versucht aus Fragmenten seiner Biographie eine erfundene Geschichte zu erzählen. Für Malay Bhattacharia ist Montage auch gleichzeitig eine Kunst des Sehens und weniger eine technische Möglichkeit des Filmemachens.

Rüdiger Tomczak

 

 

EIN GESPRÄCH MIT MALAY BHATTACHARIA

 


Mich würde interessieren, welchen Anteil die Arbeitsphasen des Drehbuches, der Inszenierung und der Montage an der Konstruktion ihres Films hatten.


M.B:Zuerst einmal zur Konstruktion des Drehbuches: Man sieht, daß hier nur eine sehr dünne Erzählung existiert. Zunächst geht es um eine Entführung. Die ist so etwas wie das strukturelle Rückgrat. Wir haben das dann ausgenutzt, um unser Thema auf dieser narrativen Struktur aufzubauen. Zuerst einmal hat das bei einigen Zuschauern Interesse an dem Film geweckt. Wir hätten die erzählerischen Elemente auch ganz vermeiden können. Aber das ist so eine Bedingung für uns Filmemacher und so haben wir einen Kompromiß gemacht, um auf dieser Basis den Film zu entwickeln. Die Arbeit an dem Drehbuch nahm die meiste Zeit in Anspruch.
Während der Dreharbeiten haben wir den Film erneut weiterentwickelt. Ich war darauf vorbereitet, aus jeder Situation heraus das Beste zu erreichen. Es hat die ganze Zeit Improvisationen gegeben. Wir sind niemals vom Thema abgewichen, haben aber sogar während der Montage noch improvisiert. Einige Dinge haben wir weggelassen und andere Szenen, die sich nicht explizit auf das Thema beziehen, drinnen gelassen.


Sie haben einmal so etwas ähnliches gesagt, wie, daß die Zuschauer beim Sehen ihren eigenen Film machen, oder präziser: daß sie ihn für sich selbst ganz neu schneiden.


Das hat mit meiner eigenen Erfahrung, wenn ich einen Film sehe, der mich inspiriert, zu tun. Da gibt es dann plötzliche Anstöße, die mich den Film weiterentwickeln lassen. Ich habe dann meinen Film mit offenen Räumen gemacht, wo die Zuschauer mit ihren kreativen Fähigkeiten einsteigen können. Ich meine, daß jeder Zuschauer seine eigene Kreativität hat. Das ist natürlich von Person zu Person verschieden. Diese Öffnung ist direkt in den Film implantiert. Erst dann wird es ein ganzer Film, denn der Zuschauer ist ein Element. Man kann ihn nicht von dem Film trennen. Das ist ein großer Kreis. Der Film ist noch in dem Produktionsstadium, wenn er auf der Leinwand zu sehen ist. Durch die Beteiligung des Zuschauers schließt sich der Kreis. Als ich den Film beendet hatte, fühlte ich mich ziemlich hilflos. Ich war viel zu sehr in die gesamte Technik der Herstellung verwickelt, als daß er mir hätte neue Ideen eröffnen könnte. Das braucht seine Zeit. Das delegiere ich dann an die Zuschauer weiter. Feedback und neue Inspirationen von meinem Film bekomme ich dann durch die Reaktionen der Zuschauer. Dann erst ist der Film auch für mich komplett. In meinem Film gibt es einen Moment, wo Rajat in eine Telefonzelle geht und eine Nummer wählt. Das Publikum denkt sofort, daß es sich hier um eine Entführungsstory handelt. Man denkt, daß er Lösegeld fordert. Basierend darauf sind wir dann unseren eigenen Weg gegangen. Hier treffe ich mich mit meinem Publikum, wenn auch auf verschiedenen Ebenen. Es geht eigentlich überhaupt nicht um Kidnapper oder Lösegeld.


Neben dem Aspekt Film und Reaktion des Publikums, gibt es ein anderes faszinierendes Element in dem Film. Ich denke da an den Satz. „Kino und Schlaf haben etwas gemeinsam. Beide sehnen sich nach der Dunkelheit.“ Das erinnert mich an die Situation, wenn man während eines Filmes sehr müde wird, kaum noch einer Geschichte folgen kann und jeder einzelne Moment plötzlich ein großes Gewicht bekommt.


Ja, ich habe sehr ähnliche Erfahrungen gemacht. Es gibt Bilder, die bringen dich zu einer ganz anderen Geschichte, die nicht unbedingt in den Kontext der Filmstory gehört.


Bei vielen asiatischen Regisseuren, die eigentlich sehr wenig oder kaum filmtheoretische Essays verfaßt haben, finde ich dennoch neben Poesie auch oft, direkt in den Bildern sehr viele Gedanken über das Kino.


Das ist eine sehr interessante Beobachtung. Meine Ideen über das Kino sind auch reflektiert in dem Film, wie ich ihn strukturiert habe. Die Zahl drei spielt eine wichtige Rolle in meinem Film. Die drei Personen, der Intellektuelle, der Taxifahrer und der Maler. Das sind eigentlich drei Aufspaltungen von ein und derselben Person. Wir haben die drei Zeitebenen Vergangenheit, Gegenwart und Zukunft oder Realität, Imagination und Absurdität. Alle diese Elemente durchdringen oder berühren sich gegenseitig. Wir haben versucht, den Eindruck zu vermitteln, daß die drei Charaktere in der Zeit umhertreiben. Das kann in jeder Zeit stattfinden, Vergangenheit, Gegenwart oder Zukunft. Wie in der Wirklichkeit kann man diese Perioden nicht wirklich voneinander trennen. Wir treiben in Imagination, Nostalgie, Erinnerungen und Tagträumen. Ich möchte den Zuschauer dazu bringen, sich seine eigene Geschichte zusammenzustellen. Ich denke, das ist ein sehr kinematografisches Experiment und eine Erfahrung, die nur im Kino möglich ist. Meine persönliche Vorstellung vom Leben ist, daß es hier nie eine komplette Geschichte gibt. Es gibt Teile von Geschichten, die eine Tendenz haben sich zu verbinden, sich aber nie zu einer Geschichte vervollständigen.

Interview und Übersetzung aus dem Englischen: Rüdiger Tomczak, 17.2. 1997, Hotel Savoy

Erstveröffentlichung shomingeki Nr. 4, Juli 1997