Director and screenplay: Wakagi Shingo, Suzumoto Kai
Photography: Wakagi Shingo
· Ando Sakura (Terako)
· Iura Arata (Iwanaga)
· Tanimura Mitsuki (Shiori)
· Takahashi Yoshiaki
Production: Hatanaka Suzuko, Kochikawa Michio
Running Time: 91 minutes
Release Date: April 25, 2015
Terako is a young girl without work. One day her best friend takes off her life. Terako so spends the days in his little apartment for the most part to sleep. The only times he leaves is to meet Iwanaga, a married man whose wife is in coma.
The film is based on a famous short novel by Yoshimoto Banana, a collection of three stories, known in Italy as a deep sleep, and comes to the cinema after more than a quarter of a century since its publication in Japan (1989).
I remember reading it many but many years ago and if memory does not deceive me, it can certainly be said that the atmospheres and general tone of the film make enough justice to the novel. The director is Wakagi Shingo who is also a photographer and whose last work before this was Totemu: song for home in 2009. Asleep is shot as in a state of continuous amazement, or rather it would be pervasive catatonia, one of its qualities The best thing is to be able to live and embody that border area between dream / wake / memories that is at the base of the film and the novel to which it is inspired. Time plans are often overturned and mixed, there is no clear separation between what comes first and what follows, by its very constitution it is a feature film we imagine will tend to divide, who will love it and who it is I will be disappointed and this is because the praise, at least for those who write, are also the defects for any detractors.
The slow and almost static movement in some parts and the “age” of the characters – to be understood here as both stylistic and interior – are in fact the fil rouge that goes through the entire film. In fact, in the first twenty minutes, you can calibrate the rhythm, the colors and the texture of the images, abandoned by almost hypnotic behavior, or you can not enter the narration and the world created by director and comrades. The risk of the film is just that, that is, to “bore”, especially when seen not on the big screen. But once you enter the world of the protagonist and go to the second part of the film, the quality grows as well as the level of tuning.
The work done in photography by the same director extends like a whitewashed veil over all the images. Most are interior scenes where the body of the protagonist is shown without filters, we often see naked scenes, but they are never pictures of eroticism. So we do not share what was written on the Japan Times where the movie is called a pregnant work of eros. These are slim and simple life photographs even when the two protagonists smile or make love, a life that is gradually emptied, decolorizing all the surrounding landscape. For these reasons, two scenes all over the film almost suspended between life and death (and the wife of Iwanaga in coma is a strong symbol of the whole film). One is the final one that we will not reveal here, even though it is narratively totally secondary to the development of the film. The other is a stain of colors, sounds and movement, all near zero in the 91 minutes of the work that is created when the handy cargo follows Terako shaking through a crowded cross. An astonishing scene for the contrast just explained but also because it seems to have been skillfully shot in guerrilla-style with the focus that remains for the few seconds of life on the girl and the background that, going out of focus, paints colors the screen canvas And, at the same time and in a very practical way, he can hide the faces and reactions of passersby. Choosing not to use music, excluding queue titles and the beginning, moves in the same aesthetic direction of the film, that is to use a “simple” and almost monotonous photograph, but not as obscure as is often the case with many indie Japanese works contemporary.
If we have to find defects in this Asleep, apart from the previously mentioned initial approach that requires a resetting from the viewer, is an excess of lyricism in some parts, especially those where the two lovers meet and know about the beach. Arata’s performance in the role of Iwanaga is strong enough in her algorithm and once again Andō Sakura is really good at transforming expressions, body and personality and to fit perfectly into the opaque moods of the film, in an interpretation once again framed. The two actors find themselves here after singing in the beautiful film of Yang Yong-hi, Kazoku no kuni (Our Homeland), which was the Japanese film running for the Oscar a couple of years ago.
A final note just to emphasize once again that Asleep should, in my opinion, be seen as a kind of experimental film, not in the story of course, but in the way he approaches such elusive and ambiguous issues but with a strong attachment to reality Such as the isolation and the impasse that almost without reason sometimes submerge individual lives, because one can not always blame society (individualist, capitalist, japanese, etc.) and then look away on the other side instead of facing Life and moments of ineffability and pain.