Review: Himizu (TBC) / Director: Shion Sono / Screenplay: Shion Sono / Starring: Shota Sometani, Fumi Nikaido, Tetsu Watanabe / Release Date: June 1st
Himizu is Director Shion Sono’s reaction to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Devastating landscapes, psychological tension and a regnant rumble take over your senses. Not as brutal as Cold Fish or as long as Love Exposure, but affecting and powerful cinema that captures the confusion of disaster and the anger of the aftermath. Sono takes Minoru Furuya’s manga novel and shifts the setting to Fukushima to create a tense and moving portrayal full of darkness.
Keiko (Fumi Nikaido) is a fourteen year old girl obsessed with Yuichi (Shota Sometani), in fact she is self admittedly his stalker. She collects his words and wallpapers her room with them, repeating them like a prayer and getting overexcited at spending any time with him. Yuichi is going through troubling times, his mother has left, leaving him to run the family business and his drunken father has run up debts with the yakuza which he must repay. Life is a little overbearing to say the least. With his parents gone, Yuichi is helped by another family of sorts, a mixed group who live on his land in tents due to displacement after the tsunami.
The relationship between Keiko and Yuichi is one full of humour, fraught emotions and curiously unexpected moments of madness. They constantly slap each other in a haiku inspired game created by Keiko and what starts as funny leads to something a little darker as Yuichi takes his repressed anger out on his admirer. Yuichi is on a path of destruction, as he keeps being pushed closer to the edge and it all ends in disaster. Both the performers excel at portraying damaged youth. Nikaido delivers hysterical outbursts with flair, whilst Sometani’s portrait of an adolescent on the edge reaches dark and palpitating places.
Sono delivers it all in a melodramatic fashion in fitting with the subject matter. Dramatic and moving classical music, that although slightly uninspired, certainly adds to the melancholy and building unease. The disaster is haunting these characters constantly and with the use of sound and powerful imagery (especially prevalent in a dream sequence that is shot on location in Fukushima) Sono presents a crushingly real reaction to the events in Japan of March 2011. His empathy for the people affected by the disaster and the importance of marking and mourning this tragedy are clear.
An elegy that delivers moments of calm and waves of violence that hit you unexpectedly and repetitively. A bleak but tender portrayal of youth and the all-encompassing nature of grief; it ends on a hopeful note, advising the audience not to give up.
Himizu is showing at the Terracotta Far East Film Festival on 15th April and released in the UK on 1st June.