A Conversation With "Maborosi" Director, Hirokazu Kore-Eda - Part I
by Mark L. Feinsod
“Maborosi”, the first feature film by Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda, begins with a 12-year old Osakan girl named Yumiko watching as her grandmother
leaves to return to the village of her childhood to die. Years later, Yumiko
(Makiko Esumi) is waiting for her husband and childhood sweetheart, Ikuo, to return from work, when she is informed by a policeman that Ikuo has committed
suicide. Despondent, Yumiko nevertheless marries a widower she has never met,
Tamio, who lives in the seaside village of Noto, and soon thereafter Yumiko
and her son travel there to start their new life. Yumiko and Tamio’s marriage
flourishes, except that she cannot stop grieving for her late husband, and is
unable to comprehend Tamio’s ability to overcome his own grief.
indieWIRE: What about “Maborosi No Kikari” [the novel by Teru Miyamoto upon which “Maborosi” is based] inspired you to use it as source material?
Hirokazu Kore-Eda: About five years ago, for one of my documentaries, I interviewed a woman
whose husband had committed suicide. Through this interview, I took a deep
interest in how people cope with the loss of someone close, how they work
through their grief and mourning. The story by Teru Miyamoto was also based
on this theme of mourning. I read the story at twenty, and liked it. It was
my interest in death and grief born from that documentary, along with my love
for the original story, that prompted me to make the film.
iW: I was impressed by your use of lighting and sense of composition. How do
You feel such elements fit into narrative cinematic storytelling?
Kore-Eda: The way I envisioned the film was not to show Yumiko’s change of emotion
through narration, or to explain her feelings through close-ups. I
constructed every scene in this film not for the purpose of telling her
story, but to invite the audience to feel the light, the sound and the
darkness that Yumiko was feeling at that moment. I wanted to portray the
change within her by depicting the changes of light and shadow that
surrounded her. The lighting and the composition of the shots were not
intended to tell the story, but to evoke Yumiko’s interior landscape.
iW: Do you think that the subtleties of your film, and it’s sense of
composition and lighting and cinematography, enhance or detract from it’s
treatment of suicide, loss, and poverty?
Kore-Eda: I had no intention of using obvious lighting devices such as bluish light
to evoke suspense. I wanted to shoot the film in natural light. As a concept,
one thing that I was thinking about was, in the first half of the film,
Yumiko is surrounded by a womb-like darkness. When she begins her life with
her second husband, light begins to seep into her surroundings. It’s not so
much that the lighting is there to reinforce the theme, rather the gradual
change in the light itself was a theme of the movie.
iW: You use different types of shots — the long shot between Ikuo and Yumiko
At the factory, for example — to convey elaborate emotions.
Kore-Eda: There are upwards of 300 shots in this movie. I did the story board for
every single one of them. I planned what kind of light there would be and
what kinds of sounds would be heard in each of the shots. I had a great time
doing it. Using the sound of the bicycle, the bell, the wind and the light of
a bulb; using things that surround us in everyday life, I attempted to
portray the space and time inhabited by Yumiko. In the scene where Yumiko
goes to visit Ikuo at the factory, they look at each other through the
window. This is [sic] the one scene where I changed my style of shooting.
This is [sic] the only moment in the entire movie Yumiko and Ikuo face each
other– and I wanted to emphasize this moment by breaking the style of the
film and going in closer on each of them. This is the only place I use a
medium shot in the movie. Most scenes where you see the two them, I had them
together in a long shot and did the whole scene in one shot. But in this
scene at the factory, not only do I use a medium shot, but I also intercut
between Yumiko’s and Ikuo’s shot. I wanted to make an impression on Yumiko
and the audience with the expression on Ikuo’s face in that medium shot as he
looks out at Yumiko from inside the factory.
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