YIDFF 2005 New Docs Japan
Into the Picture Scroll—The Tale of Yamanaka Tokiwa
An Interview with Haneda Sumiko (Director)

The Power of a Picture Scroll Brought Back to Life

Q: How did you come to film the picture scroll?

HS: It was a long path, starting over thirty years ago when I first got the idea to film a picture scroll. I filmed a folding screen painting when I was making a piece about late-sixteenth-century genre pictures. The pictures weren’t that powerful at first glance, but people came alive within the frame when I set up the lighting and peered through the camera to film. So then, at the time I thought it would be even more interesting to shoot a picture scroll, where the drama is linked together. But I had a hard time finding a picture scroll that fulfilled all the requirements for filming. Then I read a book by art historian Tsuji Nobuo called Lineages of Eccentrics, about eccentric painters. Included was an interesting picture scroll by Iwasa Matabei. The actual scroll was at the MOA Museum of Art, so I went to see it. “Yamanaka Tokiwa” was done in the 17th century, but it is in excellent condition and the colors are beautifully preserved. So, I thought it would work for a film. But then I got wrapped up in a film about the elderly, and I couldn’t get started until about eight years after I’d gotten permission from the museum to film. I was able to take a break and did the filming in 1992. And the filming was done, but then I didn’t have time to finish the piece, and it was another ten years before I finally completed it. In the end, thirty-seven years had passed since my initial idea to film a picture scroll.

Q: How did you film the picture scroll?

HS: We borrowed a room in the museum and spent forty days filming, since naturally you can’t take the scroll out of the facility. There are twelve scrolls, about 150 meters in total. We spread the scrolls out one by one to shoot, but it would be dangerous for us amateurs to touch them, so producer Kudo constructed a long platform to hold the picture scroll. At first we put the platform down flat, and then lifted it up a little bit for the filming. We added a support below, so that the scroll wouldn’t slip down. Also, the camera was secured and fixed, since we couldn’t risk any accidents with a moving camera. So we put the platform with the picture scroll on rails, and moved that. We shot the whole thing using indirect light, since lights would harm the picture. At any rate, the preparations were difficult.

Q: The ancient joruri (type of performance from the Edo period) music seems to plays an important role.

HS: The words to the ancient joruri story are written in the picture scroll, but the tune is now lost. We consulted with bunraku musician Tsuruzawa Seiji, and he agreed to take on the project. But, it takes six months to compose for puppet joruri. The most difficult thing was we didn’t know the tempo of his ancient joruri music yet when we were filming. So, I did numerous re-edits to match up the sound and picture.

Q: Scenes like Tokiwa’s murder are depicted with great intensity.

HS: The nuanced strokes of the brush become clear when enlarged through the camera lens. And the paper, black ink, and the picture itself become three-dimensional. So the vitality of the person who painted the scroll, their use of the brush, and their breathing emerge naturally. There are brush strokes that look as if the person from several hundred years ago were right there in the flesh and blood, though the living person doesn’t actually appear. So after all, it is the human being present in the film.

(Compiled by Hashiura Taichi)

Interviewers: Hashiura Taichi, Kato Hatsuyo
Photography: Kato Hatsuyo / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2005-10-04 / in Tokyo