YIDFF 2005 all about me? Japanese and Swiss Personal Documentaries
Mother of the Mother and Also the Mother of the Mother’s Mother, and Her Daughter
An Interview with Setoguchi Miki (Director)

A Missive Challenging the World That Appears Unwavering

Q: Tell me about “mother,” the main theme of this work.

SM: A big thing is I wanted to escape the threatening conception that I have about my mother. I have this fear that maybe I’m going to end up becoming ugly like my mother, who withered up and became ugly as she passed away. In the film there’s the line that “you become a mother like your own mother,” but that all represents my own thoughts, and I am fearful about becoming a mother and am negative about marriage, even at this age when it wouldn’t be strange if I became a mother. I thought that I needed to come face-to-face with my mother in a film, even if based on my own life.

Without having a mother it’s hard to grasp an image of “mother,” so I talked with girls of my age and assembled a big mother from parts I borrowed from everyone else. I decided to prepare the vessel of kishimojin (goddess of childbirth and children)—a goddess and demon—as an antithetical symbol of the mother image. I did this because I was depicting everything by connecting the fragments of other people’s mothers like a patchwork quilt, and there was a danger that it would all be in contradiction and not come together.

Q: I heard you usually begin your film work from sound, but specifically how do you make it?

SM: Things tend to end up as fragments, because I’m always getting lost between the beginning and end. When I decide to give form to the murkiness, I start off with words, and use my notebook memos and narration as raw materials. In fact, I can’t make a film from images. First I create the audio, listen to it from start to finish, and then create images of the ideas and emotions that emerge.

The pictures are images. I keep shooting the things that somehow come to mind, as long as I keep thinking up things—not metaphors. Even I find it to be a thrilling way to make films. Oddly enough, I come up with great material when I think about the theme around the clock. The action of filming with the camera is recreating the landscape I want to see so that I can touch it, and then record that. There’s something uplifting in that for me. Maybe it’s the pleasure of encapsulating in the camera a desire that I can touch if I reach out my hand.

Q: From the visuals, I got a strong image of death, or things collapsing.

SM: People often tell me that, though I wasn’t really intending to be conscious of that in particular. Maybe I have an urge to destroy as I make films. As I was making the work I wanted to have a place to return to, and included a real location as an image, but that’s in order to depict a place that doesn’t exist. This is because even if I try to shoot what’s really before my eyes, for me that’s only landscape and it changes three seconds later. I’m always making works while battling the urge to destroy.

Q: In the symposium you said that you felt no relief, even after making this film. What is the significance of making films for you?

SM: There’s an aspect of figuring myself out, and also voicing an objection to people who are able to make a definitive, positive statement about something. Like saying “I could care less!” to people who have absolute conviction when they finish a film.

In my works, I try to search for ways to show people what I see behind the things I’m looking at, using visuals, using sound. But the more I try to depict the “truth” of what I feel, in a sense I get farther from reality. I’m starting from the point that there is nothing absolute, but even so, now I feel empty about having arrived at the point of wondering “there’s really nothing?” The only thing I can say with confidence is that “I have confidence in myself not having confidence.”

(Compiled by Sato Hiroaki)

Interviewers: Sato Hiroaki, Inotani Yoshika
Photography: Otani Shizu / Video: Oki Chieko / 2005-10-13