Director : Hirokazu Koreeda
Subject : from the novel by Teru Miyamoto
Screenplay : Ogita Yoshihisa
Cinematography : Nakabori Masao
Running Time: 110 min
Release Date: March 21, 1997
PIA: Comments: 3.5 / 5 At the exit of the rooms: 66/100
Score ★★★★☆ 3/5
The film begins with a dream. A dream which concerns the grandmother, deceased, of the protagonist. A small resolute elderly woman who had suddenly decided to leave his family and go back to his village of origin. The small Yumiko had been unable to restrain her. In the dream, the child runs the bridge to get to her grandmother, but not again. So there is death in the beginning (dream of death or death “dressed” dream …), but there is also the whole painful melancholy that brings with it the memory of a loved one lost forever, there is the germ of absence. E ‘, in essence, the poster in miniature of the film Hirokazu Koreeda.
Maboroshi no Hikari is the first feature film by Koreeda. Adapted from a novel by Teru Miyamoto, it is a slow, poetic film about death and memory.
And ‘the story of Yumiko, young bride and mother of the Ikuo Yuichi, an existence that seems to flow peacefully in a quiet neighborhood of Osaka. Until the day when her husband Yumiko not return from work and the woman learns shortly after it was hit and killed by a train as he walked on the tracks. It is not clear whether it is suicide or an accident. Five years later Yumiko remarries a man widower with a daughter (Tamio), and moved with his new family in a village on the coast. The ghosts of the past, never loose the knots of anguish of the woman determined by a sense of helplessness in the face of death all’inspiegabilità (before the grandmother, then her husband) finally come to light, dragging it to a cathartic final.
The whole film is confronted with the idea of death and the need to elaborate the concept in order to return to live with the strength given by a new awareness of the past. But there is only the sense of loss since the death, in Maboroshi.
There is the wealth of the universe of memory, made of images of places, the memory of the people, even the sounds; There is the natural environment, the space around the characters that is of essential importance, becoming the stage to describe the feelings that are being debated in the soul of the protagonist. It ‘a work beautifully articulated, which shows the deep feelings of the author, which will be confirmed by later works. Nontrivial ways in which the director portrays the female universe: the same Koreeda defined the film as a “document on shadows and highlights that inhabit a woman.” Yumiko is similar to those daughters, nieces, wives and mothers, those heroines of Japanese cinema, seemingly fragile, doomed to a destiny of suffering. The woman moves in long shots of the director with dramatic elegance. And ‘as if she traces that the death of loved ones left were evident, that death which belongs to the unexplainable, and that he is never shown.
But what maboroshi ?
In one of the most intense and poignant sequences of the film a funeral procession makes its way towards the sea. In the first scene a sudden and surreal snow begins to fall, and then disappear in the subsequent shots. The procession arrives on the seafront followed by Yumiko, who joins her husband Tamio, who joins her on the rocks, beside the still burning funeral pyre. The two are silouhettes black in front of sunset. The environment, as we said, is the inner life of the characters, the black and aggressive shapes of the rocks that stand out against the polychrome brightness of the sky, creating a light / shadow report that frames the figures. Here she reveals that their obsession is that of not being able to make sense of the death / suicide of Ikuo. Tamio then provide their own interpretation of what happened, remembering that his father had confessed that he was attracted by a mysterious light from the sea, maboroshi precisely, the mirage, the “illusion radius.” Perhaps, suggests the man, it can happen to anyone. The words of Tamio assume an almost miraculous strength.
At this point the director seems to cast a hopeful sign: the two retreat funeral pyre and leaves the frame, leaving room for the couple and, as far as Yumiko, the chance to finally develop their own mourning.
Death gives way to life.
As for the style, the director is proposed as early as this first work with an approach – which bears testimony to the love for the work of great authors like Ozu, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, but Oguri Koei (particularly the film Doro no kawa , 1981, also by a sudden Miyamoto Teru novel) – characterized by the refusal, with few exceptions, the close-ups or shots, the almost total absence of camera movements, the use of natural light, from creating “paintings” environment in which to enclose the characters. Precisely in this regard, however, it is noteworthy that the fixed plans, the semantic use of the landscape, the practical absence of reverse shot, also refer to the commissioning typical of the documentary scene, and then to the past of Koreeda staff in the world of documentary.
I conclude with a particular aspect: the insistent presence of trains.
The whole film is crossed by the dark omen represented by passing trains. The windows glimmering lights that beckon Ikuo and spectator together. Koreeda through these lights is as if speaking directly to the viewer of cinema, and because these same lights are the visual representation, in fact, seem to the flow of the film; and because the alternation of light and shadow is as if the viewer from referring to that same charm that pushed Ikuo to suicide, to the seductive power of light.