August 01, 2016

Movie Review: The Mourning Forest by Naomi Kawase








Screenwriter-director-producer:             Naomi Kawase
Executive producer:                               Hengameh Panahi

Cast:
Shigeki:                                    Shigeki Uda
Machiko:                                  Machiko Ono
Wakako:                                   Makiko Watanabe
Shigeki's wife:                          Kanako Masuda
Machiko's husband:                  Yoichiro Saito

Running time:                           97 minutes

Real life & emotions that will leave a lasting impression

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Set in rural Japan where green tea leaves are grown and harvested. The movie opens with a scene of elderly people outside caring for vegetables. The story slowly unfolds to reveal a care centre run by staff that helps elderly patients with companionship, outings, eating and daily life skills. We learn how the residents and staff live and work together, the difficulties of aging (how people become territorial & wont let others near them or their possessions). The caregivers view is also explored sharing the long hours, frustrations, backbreaking, mind challenging, thankless hours, taking the brunt of others emotions, fear and anxiety. The movie is very slow (normal for Japanese films to take in the whole scenery and slow you down to their pace), it sets the scene carefully and puts you into real Japanese lifestyle and the centre of the story. 


The unfolding bond between caregiver Machiko and resident Shigeki. An outing to the mountain for a hike together starts well but soon comes off the rails when the car goes off the road into a ditch which distracts Shigeki who disappears alone into the forest leaving Machiko to get help and return to look for Shigeki. Frantically she searches the nearby area looking for him with all the fear that she must account for her actions if she cant find him. Eventually after much anguish she finds him and starts to run after him only to see him steal a watermelon from a nearby field, during the ensuing chase he drops the watermelon which smashes. This allows the two to catch up and start again as they sit and eat the watermelon in the hot afternoon sun. A relief after all the preceding drama.

Shigeki then leads Machiko into the mountains following a path that leads to where his dead wifes ashes are buried. In reality he is making a final pilgrimage on the thirty third year after her death (known in Japanese Buddhism as sanjusankaiki when the soul of the departed leaves the earth for the final time never to return). Shigeki has made the trip to say his final goodbyes bringing letters and diaries he has written to his wife during the preceding years. When he reaches the spot he places the items on the ground and wishes he could go away with her. He lies down on the ground and prepares himself. Machiko is clearly shocked being an unknowing accomplice in his suicide, upset she leaves him there.

Real life & emotions that make a powerful story that will leave a lasting impression.











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