An Interview with Oda Kaori (Director)
I Wanted to Express the Sensation of Losing Time Underground
Q: How did you decide to make this film about coal miners?
OK: It grew out of an assignment at school. I’m in the doctoral program at the Film Factory in Sarajevo. The founder of this school, the director Tarr Béla, had assigned us the project of making a film based on a short story by Kafka. This story of Kafka’s was about coal. I went to a mining company to do research for the film, and while I was doing research I found the atmosphere of the mine itself to be fascinating. So I gave up on the assignment and proceeded to make ARAGANE.
Q: The long takes that descend from above ground to below were impressive. About how long was the distance?
OK: The road leading to the mine was long—about 300 meters. It takes about twenty minutes.
Q: How many times did you film in the mine?
OK: About ten times, from October of last year to March of this year. They usually let us into the mine to film for about four hours each day.
Q: Were you filming by yourself?
OK: It was just me. But since I’m not trained as a miner I couldn’t go into the mine alone, so every time a manager from the company would come with me. I shot inside the mine with his guidance.
Q: Did you learn the rhythms of work in the mine before you started filming?
OK: No. I went about shooting the candid reactions of the miners. All I did was follow the miners and the movements of their headlamps. I usually had the camera on a tripod to film. Basically, when filming I wasn’t thinking about much more than where to place the camera and where to focus, but I did think about many other things during editing.
Q: The brightness of the snow when coming out of the mine—did you make this edit with the contrast to the darkness inside in mind?
OK: Yes, that’s right. In addition to that, since there’s no sunlight underground and you’re always enveloped in noise, you lose the sense of time. You become unable to tell how just how many hours you’ve spent in this hole. I wanted to express that sensation of losing time underground. I wondered, “what can I do to achieve this?”
Q: ARAGANE is your first full-length work, isn’t it? Your first work was a “self documentary.” What kind of work is that?
OK: My first work, Thus a Noise Speaks, shot my family and me. I’m gay, and it approached the problems that my family and I have. Our family’s problems can’t be resolved, but I thought I might be able to do something with the camera, and so I made these problems into a film.
At the time I was 25 years old. In my 25 years of life, the biggest source of conflict had been difficulties associated with my sexuality, so when I finished making this film it felt almost like I had nothing left to shoot.
Q: So you hit a wall, in a sense.
OK: That’s right. But I wanted to keep making movies. After Thus a Noise Speaks I made a few shorts, but I was very much wandering. I am still wandering.
Q: Do you think that ARAGANE reflects your study at Film Factory?
OK: I think it does, of course. Tarr Béla is always instructing us to square right up to human beings and film them, and to be honest.
(Compiled by Yamane Hiroyuki)
Interviewers: Yamane Hiroyuki, Kusunose Kaori / Translator: Tyler Walker
Photography: Hirai Mona / Video: Fukushima Nana / 2015-10-10