An Interview with Inoue Tsuyoshi (Director)
We Mustn’t Forget that View. It’s Always There, It’s Nobody Else’s But Ours.
Q: Your previous film was also about an earthquake disaster: The Town’s Children, How did you approach this one differently?
IT: The underlying theme in The Town’s Children, a film about the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, was the idea to “accompany.” But for the new film, the central concept was to “cast away.” We really threw the children out onto the land of Fukushima.
In the previous film, since the neighborhoods of Kobe had already been rebuilt by the time we were filming, we had to imagine what the city had looked like right after the destruction. In contrast, when we arrived on location in Fukushima, we found the landscape at a standstill from the time of the quake. We decided to “cast away” the children into the terrain, to let them go. We thought it best, if we wanted to convey something honestly, for the children to directly communicate to the world what they felt as they stood there.
In the early locations, the children sometimes just froze in step, at a loss with what to do. We had not explained to them what the scene was going to be about. But I wanted them to stand firm and find a way to move ahead by themselves, so I just kept filming, keeping watch over them without giving instructions.
Q: So you didn’t direct their acting?
IT: Not in the way you would direct an ordinary drama. We did discuss the scene after each filming, but I didn’t provide them with acting cues. It was more important for me to capture the spontaneous reactions and emotions of someone who had experienced Fukushima. There is obvious no right or wrong to that, so we just recorded what we got.
Q: One of the characters uses the words “How beautiful!” in the opening desert scene. Someone told me it was a scripted line. The dialogue is empowering and the music is mystical. But the landscape before our eyes is tragic and shocking. Were you going after this contrast?
IT: Yes, it was intentional. It was a symbolic “must” scene for this film. Some may criticize me for saying this, but I have to say the landscape there was very beautiful. Not a single soul in sight, no buildings—it was so like being in desert dunes, you would even forget you’re in Japan.
If you follow the film, you will see that this scene happens after the children had already spent some time in Fukushima and gone through a process of coming to terms with its reality. Once you take that into consideration, you would be able to accept why those words were uttered and enjoy the use of music in that scene.
Most people think Fukushima is very far away, but in fact it’s just 200 km from Tokyo. I think that’s more the reason not to forget about it. Fukushima and that desert-like landscape exist today, remaining as they were left at the time of the disaster. It’s not anyone else’s problem but ours.
Q: In the song Tsumori that we hear midway through, the lyrics say: “pretending that the disaster never happened.”
IT: The lyrics were taken from (scriptwriter) Isshiki Nobuyuki’s poetry, which I find amazing. I thought up that scene when I was researching the town with my crew. We heard a recorded announcement through a loudspeaker on the streets that went: “Night is falling. Please leave by 5 pm.” It was mainly for the construction workers and public employees. We also had to get out of the area. But then it crossed my mind—what if we don’t leave? Does everyone really obediently leave?
There were houses around but nobody in sight. Yet I felt there was a sense of people living there, smells that had been sealed away since three years ago. It felt as if people would materialize, once night came. I couldn’t believe there was no one there. The folksy beat of Tsumori Ondo was born out of my wish to capture that strange feeling in my film.
(Compiled by Kano Megumi)
Interviewers: Kano Megumi, Iwata Kohei / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Inagaki Haruka / Video: Takahashi Asuka / 2015-10-11