A few years ago I saw a film called Love Exposure by Japanese Director Sion Sono. I’ve seen that film three times now and even though it is over four hours long it has become one of my all time favourites. I’d been on the look out for other films from the Director and came across Himizu, a film set in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake that caused the Tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster.
A fourteen year old boy runs a boat renting business. He is surrounded by an unusual bunch of adult friends who live vagrant lives near his house having been made homeless by the earthquake. With an absent mother and mostly absent and violent father, the boy has constant thoughts of suicide. A girl from his school becomes infatuated with him and attempts to bring his life into focus but struggles against the boy’s violence and depression.
Unsurprisingly for a film from the same Director that created a four hour film about up skirt photography, Himizu is weird. The characters are strange and unusual and there is a lot of violence, often unnecessarily so. Unfortunately the film is also quite muddled and gets tied up in strange subplots and lost in meandering avenues which go nowhere. Despite this though, there is a lot to like. I thought that the cinematography and especially the framing of the picture was outstanding. There is nothing to flashy but the film looks beautiful. There were also some nice ideas in the script. The film appears to be an allegory for Japan’s nuclear ideals. The lack of care that preceded the meltdown is echoed in the lack of care for the younger generation, visualised here in the two teenage central characters. Both leads are beaten and trampled on but continue to fight on with dignity although some of their parent’s traits eventually come out in them. The parallel between the meltdown and children was one of my favourite things about the film.
In my mind the film’s defining quality was the performances of the two leads. Shōta Sometani and Fumi Nikaido are even now barely in their twenties and are both extraordinary. Their reading of the roles are incredibly natural and realistic, even though both are playing wayward and over the top characters. The two performances were outstanding and there was good chemistry between the actors. They are surrounded by a cast of weird and wonderful characters who are also very good. Although only 130 minutes long Himizu feels a little drawn out and that is something that can’t be said about the four hour Love Exposure. The frequent slapping, hitting, punching and kicking also feels a little unnecessary and there isn’t enough focus on the story but overall I enjoyed the movie and still want to see more of Sono’s work.
- The script was written before the March 11th earthquake but tweaked to incorporate the disaster.
- Star of Love Exposure Takahiro Nishijima has a small role as a singer.
- The Sumida Boat House was built especially for the film.