[ Directed by ]
[ Produced by ]
[ Cast ]
• SAKAGUCHI Suchie
• MIYAZANO Mariko
• SAKAGUCHI Satoshi
[ Staff ]
• Cinematography: SAKAGUCHI Katsumi
• Editor: SAKAGUCHI Katsumi
• Editor: OCHIAI Atsuko
• Music: OSAWA Atena
• Sound design: YAMASHITA Hirofumi
[ Production Company ]
[ Distributor (Japan) ]
Release Date: April 25, 2015
Running Time: 93 min
Genre: Drama, Children/Family, Documentary
Screening Format: Blu-ray,HDCAM
Screening Format with Subtitles
・English (Blu-ray, HDCAM)
[ Story ]
A feature-length documentary by Sakaguchi Kat sumi (Sleep), who has devised and directed around 200 television documentaries and films about families and young people. He closely follows his mother Suchie over four years, depicting her struggles and changes. Screened in the Japanese Cinema Splash section at Tokyo International Film Festival 2014.
Seventy-eight-year-old Suchie has lost her eldest daughter and husband, and become mentally unstable. She has unintentionally grown dependent on copious doses of tranquilizers. Sakaguchi trains his camera on his mother in order to gain a deeper understanding of her.
[ Film Festivals, Awards ]
2014 Tokyo International Film Festival, Japanese Cinema Splash
The director with his video camera follows his 78-year-old mother over the course of four years. Suffering from various health problems, a beginning of senile dementia, panic attacks and bodily pains. The woman also lost her husband and decides to return to her hometown on the island of Tanegashima, in the south of the country.
Tackling a theme such as that of old age in an audiovisual work is never too simple, although the theme becomes each year that is more pressing in Japan as in the rest of the world. If we add to this that Walking with My Mother fits into the self-documentary strand, the risk was even greater and that is to derail in the most pretentious and melancholic amateur video, infesting it with sociological banalities and phrases. The documentary of Sakaguchi is not anything of all this and rather surprising not just for the sensitivity, honesty but also the technique with which it is built.
What immediately jumps to the eye is the montage, a particularly rhythmic editing, when not too fast at least for the type of documentary, which is a sort of unicum of its kind. Often this type of work in fact prefer long take with less frequent cut just to give the idea of ”real”. Thanks to the tight assembly – a cut never lasts more than a minute and on average, we go to spans, about ten seconds. Sakaguchi manages to make the documentary more “filmic”, you pass the ugly term, for a job that takes chest without backing on themes such as old age and death. In this sense, the film is paradoxically, it sounds strange, I know, full of action, in the sense that so many things happen in the hour and a half, the illness, the death of the husband, the funeral, the abandonment of the city and the return in the hometown, 93 minutes that are the summa of 4 years of filmed and praise goes to Sakaguchi for the Pharaonic work. We imagine of choice and subtraction of the images. Between nocturnal walks to reflect on how to commit suicide, scenes and phone calls of hysteria, the spectator is attracted to the vortex of events, illness, death, pain, memories and oblivion.
“I did not love him enough and I can not stand it,” says the woman in relation to her dying husband in one of the most touching scenes, words spoken in the evening, lying on the futon in conversation with the son, a situation often repeated during the documentary it acts as a sort of confessional in which the old woman remembers many things in a freewheeling way. Terrible are his words when he remembers the period in which he cleaned the buildings and had them bring back bottles of acid, memories that are punctuated by photos of the same woman of 20-30 years before and that transport us to another period with evocative force but never too lyrical or overly nostalgic as the stories of grandmothers often have.
One of the crudest parts is when the director films the moment of his father’s real death in hospital, perhaps something that many people will not like and that leaves more than a doubt, but that succeeds in his gaunt and direct way to show us the terrible simplicity of death. A mini alarm calls the doctor, the man no longer breathes, the doctor checks the heartbeat and the pupils, checks the clock and announces the death to his wife and son followed by the usual condolences. In less than two minutes the documentary reveals all the banality and irreparability of the death of an old man in the contemporary world as few other works have been able to do.
After the death of her husband we then witness the trip to her hometown, a trip to the island of Tanegashima, south of Kagoshima, where relatives, especially her sister, tries to cure Suchie especially in the spirit. Making her meet people and making her laugh . Many of the old woman’s illnesses are, or at least appear to be, of a psychological and almost hypochondriacal nature, with frequent panic attacks in which the woman asks for help almost in a state of despair to those close to her.
The son-director with the camera often converses and helps the mother and does not spare us anything. There are many scenes in which the body is shown in all its decadence and age, as when the woman takes a bath or is visited in hospital or even when she strives in the throes of constipation problems (here fortunately, however, the images do not they are and we only hear the audio). Only a close relative, the son in this case, could film these scenes and more generally shoot the whole film, without risking falling into voyeurism and into a sort of sensationalism that often afflicts the world of documentary. On the contrary, his is an empathetic and humanitarian look at his son, which sheds light on universal issues such as the loss of loved ones, at the base of the psychological collapse of the woman there is death a few years before the 47-year-old daughter – old age and the care of the elderly. At the same time, however, the gaze also serves as a personal reflection, wise and almost self-analysis on his family and in particular his parents, a confrontation that must have been revealing but also very painful for Sakaguchi, as can be seen from the family album style photographs that pass on the credits.
A not secondary aspect shown by the film is the fact that in Tanegashima and in all the rural areas of the archipelago, only the elderly remain or return. During the part of the documentary set in the island, in fact, yes we see children of a kindergarten for a play, but the younger people are the assistants who look after and take care of the population of the elderly. An inverse migration compared to that of the sixties and seventies in which many families, including the Sakaguchi, moved from the countryside to the cities.