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Part of the Jeonju Digital Project, Visitors consists of three films from three different directors. "Lost in the Mountains," by Hong Sang Soo. "Koma" by Naomi Kawase, and "Butterflies have no Memories" by Lav Diaz.
Depicts the life of a family in a remote Japanese timber village. Family head Tahara Kozo lives with his mother Sachiko, wife Yasuyo, nephew Eisuke and young daughter Michiru. Economic recession and failed development plans cause tragedy in the family.Written by
Brian Rawnsley <email@example.com>
Birds fly home in pairs / the land bends of itself
The other day I saw a film called Baraka that tried so desperately for a spiritual landscape and ended with a glossy postcard, then I turn to this, a simple unknown film about family, and find a spiritual landscape worth pouring into, modest but deep; cinematic Zen of the sort I'm looking for.
Roughly bookended by shots of blossoming nature and the happy cries of children playing hide-and-seek rising to the sky, it's about a certain worldview of life. A family gets together, weaving a life for us to inhabit for a short time. Threads already extend outwards from there even before anything has happened—a mother who has abandoned her child, a grandfather who was lost in the war. In the end one of by one the family-members part, each who knows to exactly where.
This is the Buddhist transient life, not some fated drama but a fleeting game of hide-and-seek; isn't this what we do, come together for the occasion, in a house, in a veranda, and go out again? Our visual eye never dwells on misery. The quiet unfolding is not rigorously set like Ozu used to do, it's casually nudged. I think I'd ask you to watch this just for the evocative spatiality of the thing, not a formal beauty but finding a quietly intimate center and allowing a world to sketch its own distance outwards. More obviously seen in the shots of far hillside nature framed from a veranda, but it appears again and again.
Watching this is to get the sense that life extends from the frame, it is not confined to it.
And I'd ask you to watch it for the quiet metaphysical touches, I'm talking about that faint sense in the visual field that the images narrate the self, the skies returning the gaze. As the mother walks from the house after the father's death, prefiguring her eventual leave, the nephew walks after her crying her name—suddenly it rains. The filmmaker would build a whole other film around this moment, her marvelous Sharasojyu.
Yes there is some pretty overt symbolism about loss and change in the tunnels and trains that won't pass, overt only in this context. But I know I will return to it again and again for the sense of journey, the coming together of loved ones and inevitable going again, the quiet evocation that finds a slightly sad, slightly bemused spiritual wonder in the things around us—everything here reflects a worldview I hold dear.
It's all in that marvelous last floating release of the camera from the sleeping (dying?) grandmother who has seen it all, sending us out.
It reminds me of one of my favorite Chinese poems:
'When the heart is far away, the land bends there of itself. Picking chrysanthemums beneath the eastern hedge, I look out leisurely at the southern mountains. The mountains' energy is fresh and clean both day and night. Birds ﬂy home in pairs. Within all this there is a deep meaning. I want to express it, but I've already forgotten the words.'
Something to meditate upon.
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