An Interview with Honda Takayoshi
I Want to Really Listen to What People Have to Say
Q: What prompted you to make The Story of New Town?
HT: In 1997 there was a series of child murders in Kobe, and as I watched the news on TV I was struck by how similar the scenes from that town were to scenes from my own neighborhood. A while after the incident, the press began reporting that the failure of a New Town was the contributing background to the murders, and while I felt that 95% of this was probably true, I just couldn’t get over that last 5% of doubt. So I decided to really think about just what kind of a place a New Town really is, and began by filming New Town Sanyo where I grew up.
Q: I noticed that you didn’t cut up a lot of the interviews in your editing.
HT: My film contains a lot of footage of people who stutter and pause while talking or start straying from the topic, but I think that’s all part of a person’s story. In the case of television, the impression that I get is that they already know what kind of comments they want and edit accordingly; so that makes me want to really listen to what people have to say. When I make a film, I want to feel satisfied that I’ve been able to fully listen to that person’s story.
One of the things that’s often done on TV news is they will suddenly cut to a close-up on a person’s eyes or hands in the middle of their talk. I’ve noticed that such tactics have become increasingly common over the past three years or so, and it makes me wonder, “what is the editor thinking?” I really don’t feel that it’s necessary. They probably think that if you don’t do these things, the viewers are going to switch channels.
In my case, I make films under the assumption that they are going to be viewed by a group of people sitting together in the dark, so I don’t want to interrupt by adding inserts or frequently cutting to different shots. When you see it on a screen, I think that that kind of detailed editing comes off feeling fussy and busy.
Q: With a video camera the sound is simultaneously recorded without you having to be conscious of it.
HT: Yes, I think that’s the number one difference between that and film. Even today I am amazed by how good the sound is in films from Ogawa Productions, Tsuchimoto Noriaki, and other films from that period. And that’s not to say that the actual sound quality is exceptionally good, but that the camera and the microphone seem to be meshed together in a very good way. For example, I heard that Tamra Masaki, the cameraman for Ogawa Productions, would roll the camera while listening on earphones to what was being recorded by the sound recordist. I think that kind of relationship is really great. When both the sound and the picture of a film are excellent, those are not independent qualities. It’s in the richness of the relationship between the two that such a film takes shape. You don’t see very many films like that these days.
Q: While digital video allows you to shoot independently, don’t you think that in fact the camera oftentimes gains control over you?
HT: Yes, that has definitely happened. Because DV cameras are compact and inconspicuous, it’s easy to become “overly friendly” with them. I say “overly friendly” instead of “close friends” because it’s sort of like suddenly shaking the hand of someone you’ve met for the first time and barely know anything about. While I know that can be a good thing and think that there have been many films that maximize this potential, I oftentimes feel somewhat afraid of certain aspects of this. This time I avoided an “overly friendly” relationship with the camera, and tried to maintain a moderate sense of distance while filming.
(Compiled by Kato Takanobu)
Interviewers: Kato Takanobu, Sato Hiroaki
Photography: Sato Hiroaki / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2003-09-26 / in Tokyo