Out Of Competition | PART 2 - A/B side VIBES. Greatest Hits from ‘80s & ‘90s | acknowledgement to SOMAI Shinji


Based on an award-winning novel by Tanaka Hiko, Somai Shinji’s 1993 dysfunctional family drama Moving was voted the second-best domestic film of the year in the Kinema Junpo magazine critics’ poll and won a shelfful of domestic prizes, as well as being selected for the 1993 Cannes Un Certain Regard section. The story follows a familiar narrative arc: Eleven-year-old Renko (Tabata Tomoko) is caught up in her parents’ slow-moving train wreck of a divorce and tries hard to bring about a reconciliation, but finally realizes they are fated to go their separate ways, just as she is fated to grow up.

Working from a script by Okonogi Satoshi and Okudera Satoko, Somai makes this common story feel uncommonly immediate and urgent, as it must have felt to Renko herself. And in the climax she undergoes less a standard awakening to adulthood than a mystic rebirth. By the time Somai made this film, his tenth, his style was already well established, with long, fluid takes and unorthodox camera angles that brought a fresh resonance and perspective to even standard tropes. A shot of Renko hanging laundry on a rooftop, filmed from a low angle with the backdrop of the blue sky, evokes a beauty not found in hundreds of similar scenes.

Renko’s family itself is atypical: Her hippy-ish father Kenichi (Nakai Kiichi) is playful and easygoing with his outspoken, ball-of-energy daughter, the opposite of the usual uptight Japanese movie dad. And though her mother Nazuna (Sakurada Junko) is a more conventionally strict type – she even draws up a household “constitution” with a list of rules for Renko to follow – she also tries to be pals with her.

Early on, however, we see the prickly, potentially explosive nature of Kenichi and Nazuna’s relationship, as symbolized by the family’s triangular dining table that seems to jab at the audience. When Kenichi moves out of the house to an apartment in a trial separation, he and Renko seemingly take his new situation in stride, with Renko telling her dad that “my closet connects to yours” as if there were a magical tunnel between the two.

But she misses her father, chafes under her mother’s rules and longs for a return to family normalcy, as shown by her embrace of a worn stuffed giraffe, a beloved reminder of better times. Also, once word of her parents’ separation gets out, she is bullied at school (but fights back by sweeping a lighted Bunsen burner at her circling classmates). And every time her mother and father meet, they argue, with Nazuna bringing up ancient grievances that only anger Kenichi. Frustrated and fed up, Renko shuts herself into the bathroom, not coming out for hours despite her parents’ entreaties. Finally, a desperate Nazuna breaks the glass door with her fist – a shocking moment that changes something in Renko.

This change plays out against the backdrop of summer festivals in her native Kyoto and nearby Lake Biwa that traditionally mark the return of the spirits of the dead to their families for a brief visit. Running from her mother, Renko encounters an old man near the lake who accidentally sprays her with a hose – and together with his kindly wife, watches over her while she recovers (or perhaps simply naps). As Renko goes on her way the old man leaves her with a word of advice: It’s best to forget all but a few important things.

These scenes hint at her metamorphosis as she leaves childhood and her troubled family life behind, a process that finds full, mysterious expression in the film’s climax when Renko emerges from a dark forest to the shore of a fire-illuminated lake and experiences a dream-like revelation. By the end she says farewell to the past and embraces a new future. Moving is an unexpectedly profound and poetic statement about the price and promise of moving on.

Mark Schilling
Film director: SOMAI Shinji
Year: 1993
Running time: 124'
Country: Japan
25/04 - 3:40 PM
Visionario, Via Asquini 33
25-04-2024 15:40 25-04-2024 17:44Europe/Rome Moving Far East Film Festival Visionario, Via Asquini 33CEC Udine