Carol Rifka Brunt is Harold…and Maude

Harold and Maude

Carol Rifka Brunt grew up in leafy suburbs of Pleasantville, New York. She headed to Scotland to study English and Medieval History, and ended up with an MA in Philosophy. She started to write in Amherst, America, and now lives on the edge of Dartmoor, where she’s going to stay as long as she can because she can ‘walk right out the front door into the woods or onto the moor or into town’. It’s also where she managed to finish her debut novel, Tell the Wolves I’m Home, a lyrical coming-of-age story, where jealousy and shame, love and loss shape the life of teen June Elbus. EITHNE FARRY

OK, so I’m cheating a little here. I should choose just one of them. But the concept of alter ego is a little hard to pin down. Does it mean somebody who is very much like you or does it mean somebody who embodies who you want to be – someone living a life you aspire to? And aren’t we all just a big mixed bag of different identities anyway?

So, I’m going to cheat and choose two of my very favourite cinematic characters from one of my very favourite films, Harold and Maude, from the 1971 film of the same name. Harold is an aimless, hearse-driving, 20-something gloomy young man. When he’s not faking his own suicide he’s out attending the funerals of strangers. Harold is a worrier. You get the sense that it takes him a long time to fall asleep at night.

Maude is a tiny 79-year-old woman who’s in love with life. She loves people and plants and art and pretty much everything that comes her way. She doesn’t believe in ownership and regularly helps herself to the vehicles of others when she needs them. Everything is beautiful and ephemeral to Maude.

These two meet and before long they are the closest of friends – yes, closest. There’s this moment when Harold presents Maude with the gift of a cheap arcade coin he’s had engraved with the words ‘Harold loves Maude’. It’s a serious, meaningful moment for him. Maude takes the coin, tells him it’s the most beautiful gift she’s ever been given, then promptly tosses it into the lake behind her. ‘So I always know where to find it,’ she tells the wounded Harold. I love that.

Harold is all inwardness and Maude all outward. Harold is who I mostly am, but there is also a little Maude in there. Maude is who I hope to be. In my mind my old lady self will be as generous and loving and carefree as Maude. In my mind I think I will one day leave the worried, anxious Harold behind, just as Maude does in the film. Or maybe not leave him behind, just get him to lighten up.

On one of their first meetings Maude asks Harold, ‘Do you dance? Do you sing and dance?’

‘Uh, no,’ Harold says.

‘I thought not,’ Maude replies.

Maybe that’s what I’m hoping for. That the Maude in me will teach the Harold to dance.

Carol Rifka Brunt

Cannes 2012 – Part 1: Italian realities, American dreams


65th Cannes Film Festival

16-27 May 2011, Cannes, France

Cannes Festival website

Welcome to a strange society: a world rigidly segregated where the population identifies themselves via a visible colour code: yellow, blue, white and red. Some have whispered that it is possible after the correct genuflections to the appropriate authorities to move from yellow to blue but the whispers are met with frank disbelief and no one would ever claim to move from yellow to red, and certainly not white. At the top of the hierarchy, the elite require no such colour coding; they are kept apart, protected, ushered from one place to the next, gawped at, worshipped, glimpsed, but occasionally exposed to the foulest abuse.

Welcome to Cannes: a miniature ten-day world, with its own police force, rules, protocol and gods. It is an alternate reality and through its various portals, the theatres Lumière and Debussy, Buñuel and Bazin, as well as the zombie, kung fu and soft porn infested market underworld, we go to our other realities.

Matteo Garrone’s Reality is an apt starting point. Badly misrepresented as a comedy, or worst still a satire, Garrone’s film is actually a Neapolitan slice-of-life drama, a mash of Visconti’s neo-realistic social concern wedded to a Fellini-esque portrait of an Italy of cheerful artifice and familiar and familial performance. Luciano (Aniello Arena) is a man on the make, who between illegal scams and his fishmonger’s stall has provided his family with some measure of security. However, when he reluctantly agrees to audition for Big Brother the lure of easy celebrity proves gradually corrosive, not only to everything he holds dear but his own sanity. The tackiness of reality television is only passingly attacked, taken as a given as in the vacuity of Enzo, a former house mate and local celebrity, with his luridly insincere English catchphrases. Garrone’s project is actually more subtle and ambitious than that. His target is a society that has been prepared by centuries of sanctified credulousness and the hypocrisy of the ‘bella figura’ (the cool Italian version of ‘keeping up appearances’), and consequently made ripe for amoral exploitation by Endemol and its ilk.

If Garrone’s film is ultimately a pessimistic portrayal of how an individual can be crushed by an oppressively realised alternate reality, Behn Zeitlin’s ecstatic debut Beasts of the Southern Wild is a paean to irresponsible freedom and youth; a childhood of slinging fireworks about and setting things on fire; an adventure that should end in tears, except for a brisk optimism and a tough-minded resolution not to shed a single one, goddammit. Hushpuppy lives with her daddy, in the Bathtub – a cross between skid row and a hippy commune located below the flood line in Louisiana. Physically, socially and geographically marginalised, the inhabitants of the Bathtub are heroic in their insistence on their freedom and way of life. This is the authentic Huckleberry Finn version of American freedom that would see the wheezy, flatulent Tea Party poseurs run a mile if they ever caught sight of it. The world is falling to pieces though, and ancient beasts are awakening. A storm is coming and, with her daddy ailing, Hushpuppy must prove herself.

Another version of American freedom came with the big Hollywood entries into the Official Competition. On the Road was a worthy, well-made, beautifully crafted, handsome yawn. It takes Jack Kerouac’s source novel unjustifiably seriously, its whole point being the writing of On the Road, which gives the whole project an overbearing air of self-congratulation while neglecting the question: if that was the point of the film, what was the point of the book? Was it so Walter Salles could make this film? Everyone is too handsome or pretty; the intellectuals wear glasses, funerals are held in the rain, books are placed with their covers in view as if the film is trying to impress us on a first date with the fact it reads Proust. Ultimately, Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) just becomes John Boy Walton, intoning chunks of his own novel as an older and wiser man over a lovingly produced Merchant Ivory reconstruction of an imaginary era.

The anti-road movie was given by David Cronenberg’s gridlocked Cosmopolis. Robert Pattinson plays Eric Packer, a billionaire financial trader who sets out on a journey by limousine across New York’s traffic-strangled streets in order to get himself a haircut. Of course, this is not a journey so much as an odyssey into the dark heart of the American dream. Taken from possibly Don DeLillo’s worst novel, the politics seem outdated rather than topical. The protest movement comes from central casting; the gobs of social commentary is smugly convoluted and blankly intoned and the secret admiration for Packer, who resembles nothing more than Patrick Bateman’s weedier brother, feels (like much of the film) to have more to do with the 80s than the present crisis.

Cosmopolis is released in UK cinemas on 15 June 2012 by Entertainment One

A much tighter criticism of the USA as a capitalist sink hole came with Andrew Dominik’s self-consciously un-epic genre piece Killing Them Softly. The crime drama tells a well-rehearsed tale of the knocking over of a mob-run card game and the consequences that follow. The story is familiar. In fact, Cogan (Brad Pitt), the enforcer called in by the mob, is so familiar with it that he gives us a pretty accurate précis of what’s going to happen before it even gets going. The interest is in the brilliantly played ensemble who create an underworld reality of criminals and their own rules. There might be changes, crises, murder even, but in opposition to Cronenberg’s infantile lusting for the apocalypse, Dominik is as clear-eyed as Cogan in seeing all this as no more than business as usual.

Other self-sustaining realities came in the shape of the Romanian religious community that featured in Christian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills and the dilemmas of Byelorussian partisans in the fascinating In the Fog, directed by Sergei Loznitsa. Both films indulge in long takes, a creeping pace and an acting style that could be kindly described as naturalistic or could perhaps more accurately be called monotonous, but whereas Loznitsa’s film gains a hypnotic power from these choices, Mungiu’s manages only to replicate the stultifying oppressiveness of the community he portrays.

Stylistically similar, but to far stronger effect, was the winner of Un Certain Regard, After Lucia, directed by Michel Franco. Set in Mexico, the film tells the story of Alejandra (Tessa la Gonzales), a 15- year-old girl who has moved to a new town with her father following the death of her mother in a car accident. At first things go well: she is welcomed to the school and makes friends with a bunch of rich kids, but following a drunken tryst she finds herself the target of her class for all sorts of abuse. The film is an unrelenting and often harrowing depiction of the psychopathology of bullying. The cruelty of adolescents has rarely been so effectively captured. The reality of the school and her peers is entirely separate from the glibly indifferent school authorities and her affectionate father, who is overwhelmed by his grief. Alejandra’s isolation is complete and as her ordeal worsens, the film becomes necessarily difficult to watch, but there is nothing here that we won’t recognise as a more extreme version of something we ourselves experienced or committed not that long ago.

The worst film of the festival was the arrogantly stupid Confessions of a Child of the Century. Directed by the previously talented Sylvie Verheyde, this period drama with no feel for its period is destroyed from within by a central performance by Peter Doherty as Octave, the libertine who falls in love and then becomes obsessively jealous and so on. Doherty is so bad you’d feel sorry for him if he wasn’t Peter Doherty: not only can’t he deliver the lines with any sense of conviction, he can’t even wear a hat convincingly. The routinely awful Charlotte Gainsbourg as Brigitte, the object of his affections, actually seems quite good by comparison. And what is it about period films that they are now so fascinated with the weather?
Incidentally, the weather at Cannes this year was the worst in 15 years.

John Bleasdale

Sheffield Doc/Fest 2012 Line-Up

The Miners' Hymns

Sheffield Doc/Fest 2012

13-17 June 2012

Sheffield Doc/Fest website

Doc/Fest’s 19th edition will bring to Sheffield some of this year’s documentary heavy-hitters from the likes of Penny Woolcock, Julien Temple, Phil Agland, Alison Klayman, Lucy Walker, Morgan Matthews, Sean McAllister, Eugene Jarecki, Ross McElwee, and Michael Grigsby. The 2012 programme celebrates the Russian pioneer of documentary filmmaking Dziga Vertov as well as the peculiarities of British culture with Bill Morrisons’s silent documentary The Miners’ Hymns, which celebrates the now-extinct mining industry and Philip Trevelyan and Richard Massingham’s Roll Out the Barrel – The British Pub on Film.

The programme also has a strong music and poetry strand: the mysterious Mexican-American singer-songwriter Rodriguez will attend the European premiere of Searching for Sugar Man, punk poet John Cooper Clarke will attend the screening of Evidently… John Cooper Clarke, AMatt O’Casey’s Quadropenia: Can You See the Real Me? features Pete Townsend revisiting the “last great album The Who ever made”, Julien Temple will present Glastopia, his latest behind-the-scenes look at the world’s most famous music festival, and Penny Woolcock’s From the Sea to the Land Beyond will play with a live musical score composed and performed by British Sea Power.

Among the themes explored in the programme are resistance with Brian Knappenberger’s We Are Legion: The Story of Hacktivists and Karim el Hakim and Omar Shagawi’s ½ Revolution; art with Matthew Akers’s Sundance hit and Berlinale award winner Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry;
religion and homosexuality with Malika Zouhali-Worrall’s Uganda-set Call Me Kuchu and Macky Alston’s Love Free or Die; and sport with Marius Markevicius’s The Other Dream Team, Hugh Hartford’s Ping Pong and The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus.

For full details of the programme please go to the Sheffield Doc/Fest website.

The Turin Horse: Interview with Bela Tarr

The Turin Horse

Format: Cinema

Release date: 1 June 2012

Venues: Key cities

Distributor: Artificial Eye

Directors: Belá Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky

Writers: László; Krasznahorkai, Belá Tarr

Original title: A Torinó;i ló;

Cast: János Derzsi, Erika Bó;k, Mihály Kormos

Hungary/France/Germany /Switzerland/USA 2011

146 mins

An austere film, and a hard watch in some respects, Belá Tarr’s The Turin Horse is also extremely rewarding. The film is an oblique take on an anecdote about Nietzsche, which recounts how the philosopher protested at a man who was beating his horse in Turin. The story has inspired many interpretations; Tarr chooses to focus on the horse, the man who owns it and his daughter. Set in a bleak, constantly wind-swept landscape, it is a soberly apocalyptic tale, a sort of creation story in reverse, as the characters’ world is gradually diminished and restricted over the course of six days until total darkness engulfs them. Tarr has said that it was his last film, and the disappearance of light at the end makes it a particularly poignant farewell to cinema.

Virginie Sélavy talked to Belá Tarr at the Edinburgh Film Festival in June 2011 about slowness, simplicity and Nietzsche.

Virginie Sélavy: The constant wind in The Turin Horse made me think of Victor Sjö;strö;m’s The Wind. It makes everything very claustrophobic. Was that the effect you wanted to create?

Belá Tarr: No, we just wanted to show you something about the power of nature. Since The Damnation, I’ve always thought about the questions: what is the power of humanity, what is the power of nature, and where we are, because we are a part of nature.

The Turin Horse has a very minimal set-up: a man and his daughter in hostile nature.

We were thinking, if God created the world in six days, what is happening now, and how we should destroy the world during those six days. We just wanted to say something about the six days, about the horse, and what is happening with the coachman if he doesn’t have a horse anymore. He will die, like his horse, because he has no work, he has no money, he has no life.

You said in the Q&A that it was the reverse creation of the world, the end of the world: every day the two characters have to give something up. There is an ominous, apocalyptic feeling about the film.

For me, the apocalypse is a big TV show, it’s a lot of things happening, it’s a really big event. And the way I see it, the end of the world is very simple, very quiet, without any show, without fireworks, without apocalypse. It’s just going down and getting weaker and weaker and by the end it will be over. The problem is, we have just one life, and when you get to my age you will see very clearly how the rest is shorter than what is behind you, and in this case you have to think about what you have done and what will be and what else you can do.

There is very little dialogue in the film and the longest speech in the film is made by a neighbour who comes round to get more pálinka. What he says is quite oblique, but he repeats, ‘they’ve debased everything’ and seems to be connecting ‘debasing’ and ‘acquiring’. Is that something that reflects your personal feelings about the world?

No, he’s an alcoholic guy, he’s run out of alcohol and he needs some more, and while he’s waiting he’s talking and this is his vision: how we touch something and how we can make it dirty because we are dirty. He’s repeating the words in a crazy way and saying nearly the same thing but it’s not the same.

You said in the Q&A after the screening, and this is something that emerges from your other films too, that there’s something that has gone wrong with the world.

It’s not as simple. At the beginning, when I was 22, I had a lot of power and I had big ambitions, I wanted to change the whole world. I was not just knocking but beating on doors and my first movie was full of energy, like a hurricane or a big storm. And it was absolutely against society. As I grew up, step by step, film by film, I had to understand that the world is a little bit more complicated. And the problems are deeper, maybe they’re not just social problems, maybe they’re ontological problems. And then I had to understand that it doesn’t only depend on people, maybe they are cosmic, universal problems and the shit is much bigger than I believed when I was 22. And I understood that it’s really hard to say something about the world and I learnt I have no right to judge anything. I cannot say anything is good or bad because I have to accept the world, and of course I have to accept and respect people. And that’s what we created, this is the world, it’s our world. And if we want we can change, but if we don’t want, nobody will change. That’s why it’s so complicated. And I’m just a poor filmmaker. We just wanted to show you something, some pictures, just some human eyes, something that is close to you.

Is it because the world is so complicated to talk about that you’ve made your film as simple as you could?

Yes, sure. I learnt and I wanted to make a very simple movie without judging, just to show really clearly what could happen and what has happened with the horse, because that is the main question.

Apart from the horse, are there other connections with the Nietzsche anecdote?

The Nietzsche story tells me very clearly about our limitations. We create some theories, or we create something, it doesn’t matter what, maybe just a table, and we believe so much in our creations and then we are faced with something like Nietzsche was, faced with the horse and the coachman beating him. And all of his theories were gone, he just stood next to the horse and he was protecting him with his body and hugging his nape, and that’s it. And you should see very clearly that all of our theories may be fake, may be wrong, and we have to understand and get closer to the real things. Of course, I was reading Nietszche and I know his theories very well. And the main issue when he says that God is dead is quite clear and really simple. I understand why he’s built this übermensch theory but we just wanted to show you that the world is maybe simpler, maybe richer.

Why do you prefer to work in black and white?

Because it’s very stylised. When you see a black and white film you don’t think you’re seeing reality. It’s not. You see immediately that it is a creation. I really don’t like colour movies because every colour is too naturalistic: on the one hand totally fake, because the green is too green, the blue is too blue, the red is too red; and on the other hand, you get a very naturalistic picture at the end. It’s far from you, it’s not my style.

Your work is also characterised by a very slow pace.

In the last 20 years, what I did was I was just destroying the stories and I tried to involve some other element like time, because our lives are happening in time, like space, natural elements – rain, wind – animals – street dogs, cats, horse – and lots of things which are a part of our lives. And when I go to the movies and I watch some real movies, what I see is a really simple thing. They are following the story line – information/cut/information/cut/information/cut, or action/cut/action/cut/action/cut. But what do we call information? What do we call action? Maybe dying is also information. Maybe a piece of wall, or when you are just watching the landscape and it’s raining outside, is also a part of time – and also part of our lives and you cannot separate that. And when we only give information, which just connects human action, we are in the wrong. I wanted to look at things and say this is also information, and if somebody is listening this is also information. And if I just see someone’s eyes, it’s also information, and not everything has to connect the primitive story line together, because anyway, the stories are not interesting anymore. If you read the Old Testament, everything is in there: how it started, Cain kills Abel, and then someone fucks their mother, and then there’s the holocaust and the mass murders, everything is in there. You cannot create new stories, it is not our job to create new stories. Our job is very simple, just to try to understand how we are doing the same old story; because we are repeating the same old story but of course everybody is different and everybody has some power to influence their own lives, and this could be interesting – because the differences are always interesting.

You show similar scenes day after day but with small variations, and it seemed to me that the film was about the incremental, almost imperceptible way in which things change.

Yes, it was very important to show the differences. Daily life is always monotonous, you wake up in the morning, you get up, etc. But every day there is always some difference.

You co-wrote the screenplay with László; Krasznahorkai, on whose novels your films Sátántangó; and The Werckmeister Harmonies were based. Can you tell me more about the way you work together?

We met in 1985. A friend of mine gave me the manuscript of Sátántangó; and I immediately fell in love with this book. I called László; Krasznahorkai and we met at Easter and from that day until the end of this movie we had a strong relationship. He didn’t come to the locations, sometimes we showed him some rushes, or the rough cut, but in our case the rough cut is nearly the ready movie. It was simple because we never talked about art, we always talked about life and real human situations, what happens to different people in reality. I had to find a way to make a movie about his novel, because if I missed anything I’d be in the wrong. I had to understand his novel and then I had to go back to reality and find the same thing that he was watching when he was writing the book. And this way I can have my point of view, which is mostly the same as the book, and then I will make a movie about this reality. I’m not working from the book directly, I have to go back to his reality and then I have to build up the film language, because literature is one language and film is another, and you cannot do a direct translation.

Interview by Virginie Sélavy

Himizu: Interview with Sion Sono


Format: Cinema

Release date: 1 June 2012

Venues: Key cities

Distributor: Third Window Films

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Sion Sono

Based on the manga by: Minoru Furuya

Cast: Shôta Sometani, Fumi Nikaidô, Tetsu Watanabe

Japan 2011

129 mins

Sion Sono’s latest film, Himizu, is an urgent and topical film. Located in the midst of the devastation caused by the 2011 tsunami, Himizu shows a society which is not only physically destroyed but also falling to pieces socially. Fifteen-year-old Yuichi Sumida (Shôta Sometani) lives with his neglectful mother in a boat hire shop. His drunken father only lurches into view when he needs cash. Sumida is also the object of a school girl crush on the part of the hyper Keiko (Fumi Nikaidô), to whom he is (at best) indifferent. The boat house is also a gathering place for a disparate bunch of refugees who serve as a Greek chorus and attempt to help Sumida in his troubles even as he hopelessly pursues his wish to lead an ordinary, normal and boring life.

John Bleasdale talked to Sion Sono at the Venice Film Festival in September 2011 and asked him about adapting a manga, incorporating the tsunami in the film, and softening his trademark violence.

John Bleasdale: When did you decide to adapt Minoru Furuya’s manga?

Sion Sono: It was before the earthquake: what we refer to as 3/11. Actually, I had already completed the screenplay when 3/11 happened, but I had to adapt the script after 3/11. The original screenplay was very faithful to the manga, but I could not ignore what had happened and continue to make the film.

The film is very different from the manga, especially the ending.

The manga was published 10 years ago, when Japan was a little more peaceful, and a little milder compared to now. Minoru Furuya wrote about a life of boredom and peace and the endless continuum of those days, but after 3/11 we were in a situation where we were living the unordinary, and the unordinary became our daily lives. The unending unordinariness is what we’re living now. The time has completely flipped. The manga is more depressing, because it was written in a more peaceful time. Now we’re not living in a peaceful time; we’re not secure enough to show these depressing things. That’s why it changed.

How did Furuya react to the changes?

He is very jealous, and he said, ‘I’m not going to read the screenplay because if I do, I’m probably going to give lots of notes, but as long as I don’t read the script I won’t feel I have to make any suggestions. So I’m just going to wait until you finish the film and then watch it.’

During the production was there any difficulty shooting the film?

The schedule for the principle photography didn’t change that much, as it was a low-budget film, and my crew wasn’t too open to incorporating the events of 3/11 into the film. But it was what I wanted to do, and so I very hurriedly rewrote the script because we already had a date to begin shooting.

In the film the protagonist seems to become a comic-book superhero, a masked vigilante, but that seems to be a parody almost, an idea that fails him.

[SPOILER] Looking back I agree, but he was in no way trying to be heroic. By committing parricide, he actually wants to kill himself, but in the time that he’s deliberating, he decides he wants to commit one good act for society, for mankind, before taking his own life. And he felt that to find and kill somebody who is obviously evil would help others. [END OF SPOILER] So it’s not like he’s a Kick-Ass type of character – he’s not a geek, he doesn’t read superhero comics – it’s not as if he’s emulating those heroes.

Like the anti Kick-Ass?

Maybe not even that, because he doesn’t have the reference.

Can I ask about the use of music? What influenced you in choosing Mozart’s Requiem and Samuel Barber?

When I was in editing, there was a melody that would haunt me. I wanted to be faithful to that, and I thought Mozart’s Requiem would be too easy a choice, but it’s just the best. It’s not about it being a requiem – that’s not the significance. It’s more about the melody. And I had seen a couple of films where there is a main theme that is repeated with variations, and I found that effective, so I always wanted to try that with the Requiem.

Were the ruins used in the beginning and closing of the film real?

I did actually go on location to a place that was hit by the tsunami, but I didn’t shoot the location like a documentary at all because Himizu is a feature film, a drama. I wanted to film the place in an un-documentary way, which is to say we had a different way of shooting. We had a very long tracking shot that showed the rubble, which is something a documentary film wouldn’t do – it will give you an idea of how vast that landscape is. It is very dramatic, as nothing in particular is going on, but it just shows you the scope of the devastation.

How did the actors react to being in a ruined place?

We actually shot the scenes very quickly, right before the light failed, so maybe three hours, four hours tops, and within that time frame I didn’t want to make it a big production, so we just had the actors and the cameraman. It was beyond a director directing it. The actors hadn’t been there before, they hadn’t seen the place where the tsunami hit, and so I was just filming their raw reaction.

What is the film’s relationship with violence? Is it an aesthetic choice?

In just this film?

In all your films.

I haven’t really compared them to others, and I can’t really talk in relation to other people, but it is quite normal for me. Say you have a Francis Bacon painting, and you go to Francis and you say: ‘Francis, you have very violent, grotesque expressions – why is that?’ He’ll probably just say, ‘that’s the way I draw, that’s the way I paint’. It’s like a tick. Like a tendency, or habit. It’s not that it has come out of a place of intent, it’s not planned in a conscious way. Like you see the sky, and some people will see it red. They don’t see the blue in the sky, and you might say where’s the red. I don’t see that.

There is much less violence in Himizu than in your previous work. The film is softer.

Yes, you are absolutely right. I think I was more restrained in my expressions of violence, but it’s funny because people keep asking about the violence in the film. I feel that it is much tamer than my previous films. Violence isn’t a theme of the film, and there are so many violent films, so why do mine stand out? I didn’t want to show the murder too graphically, because it is such a sad scene. I didn’t want to emphasize it.

There is poetry in the film. Do you still write poetry?

Before I started making films, I wrote poems. One day I realised that I had started making films instead of poems, and now I don’t write films any more, but all the impulses and passion I put into poetry, I now put into my cinema. It’s like making films is like writing a book of poetry.

The adolescent point of view is very isolated. The parents and the schools are not there, and the kids have to do it themselves. Were you influenced by any films told from the child’s point of view, for instance The Tin Drum?

The Tin Drum is one of my favourite films, but this was an adaptation of a manga. Within it, there was the character of a policeman who showed understanding for the boy. I didn’t put him in the film, because I wanted the boy and the girl to be (as you said) isolated. I wanted them to work things out, to drive the story; the world’s most isolated and alienated characters.

On TV we see that everything is in order now in Japan, but in the film there is chaos.

Journalism, I think, may not reflect the truth, so maybe it shows only a part of what the youth in Japan are going through now. Some journalists will say that the smiles are returning to the faces in Fukushima, but actually I went back a week ago to where we shot, and I didn’t see anyone smiling. Everyone is living in misery, and you can see the disparity between what is being reported and what is happening. In this sense my film is truer than the journalism.

Throughout the film we hear the sound of the earthquake, giving us the feeling that the earthquake is about to happen again. Could that be a social earthquake?

Yes. Absolutely, the apprehension of not knowing what is going to happen at any time. Ambiguous worries about what will happen in the future. To visually or cinematically convey that sense, I used that sound.

The community act as a second audience in the film. They seem to be the only community that works…

Yes, those characters had suffered so much. They had hit rock bottom and so they are able to bond. I went to the area that was hit most by the tsunami, and there were many bonds that were created as families lost members.

Is this an optimistic film?

I am going to make a film about Fukushima next, which is going to be much more about dealing with reality. This film in a way doesn’t feature radiation leakage issues that much, because if I delved into that, it would be too much. But with my next film I’ll deal with it. Talking to people, interviewing people, investigating – that is not optimistic or hopeful at all. The process itself… I am doing it so that I will find hope, but it isn’t optimistic now. To cover your ears isn’t good. You have to have the clarity and everything out in the open in order to find hope.

Interview by John Bleasdale

Watch the trailer: