Director, screenplay and editor: Hirokazu Koreeda.
Photography: Yamazaki Yutaka
Music: Eiji Mori.
[ Cast ]
Tadanobu Asano (Koichi Sakata), Arata (Atsushi Mizuhara), Yusuke Iseya (Masaru Enoki), Susumu Terajima (Minoru Kai), Natsukawa Yui (Yamamoto Kiyoka).
Production: TV Man Union, Engine Films, Cine Racket, Imagica production. Running time: 132 min.
Release Date: May 26, 2001
Link: Chris MaGee (Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow) – Watercolor (Strictly Film School)
Score ★★★★ 1/2
Distance is an enigmatic and fascinating film, with which in 2001 Koreeda seems to want to close, after Maboroshi no hikari (Maborosi) and Wandafuru raifu (After Life), the one that appears in all respects as a trilogy on the themes that are dear to him: death, memory, nature.
The story is inspired by a true story: the attack with sarin gas in the Tokyo subway perpetrated by some members of an extremist religious sect, the cult Aum Shinrikyo, 20 March 1995. The story told in the film is that of relatives of the bombers who every year go on the banks of a lake in the woods, to commemorate the day of the ritual suicide that involved their loved ones. After spending the day together, they are unfortunately discover that the car in which they had arrived was stolen, as well as the motorcycle of a boy who turns out to be one of the surviving members of the sect. With him will find shelter in the house that was the home of worship and spend the night together torn between the memories and the pain of loss, evoked by force from the place and the situation.
The film is a true path to and within the memory.
Objects, taken regularly since the first shots (like her husband shoes of one of the women, in the entrance of their house), become a metaphor of time, conjuring up the dead, fragments of the past. In isolated house in a forest that contains it and at the same time that visually represents the inner struggle of men and refers to something supernatural and highly spiritual – almost a representation of a mythological land of the dead – in that place takes shape a collective memory . The memories and the contradictions are made up in a deep concern, and their struggle away the decisive effect that would have the reach some truth, although not absolute, that here is not given even to speculate. Koreeda “keeps distance”, subtracts, leaving voids filled only by the sounds of the forest, in the absence film that reaches in my opinion in this film a highlight almost physically painful for the viewer.
Almost horror, it was said, this way of questioning the perception of reality, with a view that distortion charge while observing creatures and environments that bear the marks of that which transcends them.
The film is tragically concentrated on the topic of cults and their relationship with society. Haruki Murakami in his Underground – Tale of the attack to multiple entries to the metropolitan area of Tokyo, in 2003, highlights the risk facing the company in relegating episodes like this in the facts of the crime, making it easier to plug away and thereby leading to the pain caused by unexplained deaths, but without grasping the reality of the phenomenon. Which is also – in the case of the Aum sect was so – seemingly “normal” people, looking for an alternative system, more spiritual hypothesis, than the model proposed by the society in which they live. Koreeda enacts its own complexity and inconsistency of events related to the way of being of the whole society, that have deep roots in the evils of the company and for which it is impossible to establish with certainty that responsibility seem ambiguously appear on both fronts , one of the victims and the executioners.
Koreeda himself remembers how at the beginning of the making of the film there was not even a real script. They were provided cues to the actors on the situation and the character and the rest came to life directly from their improvisation. In Distance effects it arises in the balance between documentary and fiction: some would alternate a “natural” rate, or the present, consists of shooting mostly made with hand-held camera, from cinéma vérité, a “urban” rate, or of the past, characterized by frontal shots, with fixed plans, as in the numerous flashbacks. Long shots, in the silence of the characters, then create “space” filled with the sounds of nature that arise as a pause for reflection. The space inside the house is often built visually in a destabilizing way: with shots from above or with prospects such that the characters have difficulty in being included in the same shot, as if to emphasize the distance between them.
The film is punctuated by references to previous works. A first interesting sequence, among many, is one in which two of the characters, Atsushi and Masaru, in their journey to the place of the appointment, they stop at the edge of a railway line. A series of shots takes them frontally while behind them runs a train, which undoubtedly reminds suicide / accident Ikuo in Maborosi; at a later stage the two are taken while walking casually along the tracks, attracted by the flowers (lilies, symbol of the sect) that crest.