YIDFF 2005 New Asian Currents
The Cheese & The Worms
An Interview with Kato Haruyo (Director)

Invisible Tears Beneath the Smiles

Q: How did you begin to do the filming?

KH: I was in a panic when my mother got sick and I was told she had one or two years left to live, and filming was the farthest thing from my mind. The first time she had leukemia, she got better for a while. But it’s an illness where you go through that over and over. She’d get better and go back to a life of maintaining her physical condition. That lifestyle was extremely simple. It wasn’t like she felt really sick, but at the same time, it wasn’t like she could go somewhere for fun. It was monotonous. Around then, digital cameras could be bought for cheap, and when I got a computer as well, then I could do editing at home. I wanted my mother to get better, so with that thought in mind, plus that I was bored, I decided to try filming. I was only thinking of filming her recovery, since I really thought she would get better. I couldn’t shoot when her condition deteriorated, and filming was the last thing I wanted to do. I didn’t have such a strong desire to film at that point. But reality gradually strengthened my desire. You can’t endure harsh things for long unless you’re tough, right? Without having acquired sufficient strength it’s impossible to live, and too difficult to shoot. I was able to hold the camera after her death as well because I too had become strong.

Q: You said, “at the important moments, I’m unable to film,” which left a big impression on me. Please tell me more.

KH: I did have the urge to film. But when things were really bad, like her clutching the toilet and vomiting, after all I didn’t have the guts, and couldn’t shoot. But, that’s how it was everyday. Of course I filmed when she seemed healthy or when she got out of the hospital, but that’s just shooting the reoccurring daily fragments, right? Even if there is something that I couldn’t shoot today, I’d think that I could film the same thing tomorrow, or the next day. I began editing sometime around the night after she’d passed away and the funeral was over. More than editing, it was like I wanted to see my mother alive. She had died, and had been cremated. Editing was just pretense, as I faced the computer and just stared at the footage. I was actually crying everyday.

Q: What about the title, The Cheese & The Worms?

KH: When I was filming, I intentionally tried to treat pretty things and disgusting things like worms as equals. You have to squarely face disgusting things, things you don’t want to see, which in this film is death. So, you can’t avoid the worms. And in the last shot, the drop falling on the white screen is milk. You make cheese from milk, and it’s really delicious, right? Worms appear in the things we all love to eat after they’ve been sitting around for a while. For me, cheese is something we all can appreciate. We have a lifestyle where eating and making things are both close at hand, and worms will always appear with each season. So from early on I was thinking about filming my mother and some kind of cycle like food and worms.

Q: There is the scene where the boy comes up to your mother and cries.

KH: I had decided from the start that my mother and I would definitely not cry in the film. In reality I am a terrible crybaby, and I gush tears at the slightest little thing. But, I’d decided not to cry. That boy is the only person who cries in the film. Not crying means not giving in. Because I am a woman from Gunma. I wanted to maintain that throughout the film, but then I thought it would be okay if that just that boy cried. I really wasn’t able to film any scenes with crying. Underneath all the laughter there’s lots of tears, and the absence of scenes with crying shows just how much we cried.

(Compiled by Moriyama Seiya)

Interviewers: Moriyama Seiya, Sato Hiroaki
Photography: Tsuchita Hiroko / Video: Oyama Daisuke / 2005-10-09