An Interview with Kawase Naomi (Director)
Close Up Shots of Breasts: The Perspective of a Baby Drinking Mother’s Milk
Q: In the YIDFF official catalog, I read that you originally hoped to make a film about the birth of your child. However, in the process of trying to express the theme of life, you realized it was impossible to do so without a focus on motherhood. Could you tell me more about this?
KN: While thinking about how best to incorporate all the potential elements into a film, I am continually searching for what kind of story I would like to tell. During this process, I thought of the link between the gift of a new life and the lives of those who came before. In other words, I began to think that the life of my own mother was coming to an end. So, I naturally decided to begin filming my mother.
When I thought about the death of my mother, the person who I am connected to more than anyone, I began to feel a sense of distrust toward myself. “I’m such an unfeeling person,” I thought. So, I decided to focus on myself as well. I began to fear no longer having arguments with my mother. It’s painful to have arguments, but the thought of her death, the thought that she would no longer exist, is incredibly frightening. I think of these arguments as just one moment in all the days that make up our lives. However, many of the people who view the film get the impression that these scenes are very aggressive and confrontational. This gave the film the feeling of a story. We fight, and then we make up . . . My mother writes me a letter, and we both say “See you tomorrow.” I think of the argument scenes between myself and my mother not as something that happens every day, but rather as one aspect in the story of our lives told by this film.
In the midst of this detached depiction of my mother and myself, there is the scene of the live birth of my child, the coming of a new life. Maybe you could say my acceptance of uncertainty and death begins here . . . Filming myself eating the placenta and cutting the umbilical cord becomes an expression of my own power as a living being. I felt that I was performing a role I was born to play.
Q: I noticed there were many close up shots of parts of your mother’s body. What do these scenes express?
KN: I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I think the close up shots of breasts in Tarachime might be the perspective of a baby drinking its mother’s milk. Children often fixate on one point, right? It’s like that, I think.
Q: I noticed that there are many images with backlighting and bright sunlight in your films. Is there a meaning to your use of these images of light?
KN: I wanted to capture light on film from the moment I laid hands on an 8mm camera for the first time. Unlike video, with an 8mm camera you cannot film that kind of light unless you adjust the exposure and focus just right. This fascinated me. When light would come into my room, it would soothe me. A red twilight, for example, would calm me down. I felt like I wanted to be in that light. When I got a camera, I began to want to capture that light on film. I prefer the evening light to the morning. There is a certain melancholic atmosphere created by the way the evening light fades away, and I think this is very beautiful.
Q: Is this your first time to experiment with the sequence of events in time in one of your films?
KN: Yes. I think that through my encounters with Luciano Rigolini, my producer, the idea that even documentary films are composed became a factor in my filmmaking process.
Q: Do you feel that any aspect of the filming process changed as a result of the birth of your child?
KN: I think that my way of thinking changed. I became aware of new aspects of a variety of things, and the way I filmed may have also begun to change due to my new way of thinking. Right now, I honestly don’t really understand it all myself. However, once I complete more films, I think I might begin to understand this change in retrospect.
(Compiled by Kusunose Kaori)
Interviewers: Kusunose Kaori, Yamamoto Shoko / Translator: Christopher Gregory
Photography: Sato Hiroaki / Video: Sato Hiroaki / 2007-10-08