YIDFF 2017 Perspectives Japan
Look Behind!
An Interview with Murakami Kenji (Director)

From the Perspective of 8mm Film in the Digital Age

Q: I thought “audience” was one keyword for your film. What kind of audience did you have in mind while you were making this film?

MK: I’d be happy with anyone who watches my film. I’ve continued to wonder what cinema is, and I’ve come to believe that it’s not really the work itself, but the time spent experiencing a film. The Lumières’ invention was all about projecting an image onto a screen, and not really about moving images themselves. I believe cinema is an experience of the time shared by many and unspecified spectators in front of the screen. In my film, I wanted to recreate that experience through the film medium.

Q: Did you start shooting the film after you already had specific ideas in your mind?

MK: Yes, I did. I was hoping that my film would make the audience aware of things like the projectors, and I wanted them to feel that existence. I literally called out to the audience, and also tried things that were unique to the 8mm film medium. For example, I wrote my film title on a piece of paper and used it for the opening title. It’s very easy these days to find a computer font somewhere, but in the past, we used to write out title cards like that. I’m hoping that my film conveys a joy in manual procedures as well.

Q: Do you get a sense of crisis over film culture being lost?

MK: The first question I have is how to preserve digital works. The reason we are able to watch Lumière films from over a hundred years ago is because films are tangible, physical objects. As for anything digital, which means physically intangible, there hasn’t yet been an answer as to how definitely we can preserve it for the future. Works of art function not only to convey the present, but also to preserve it. For example, people nowadays often face technical problems when they try to play digital images of their childhood memories. Some people even have businesses that specialize in recovering these lost digital images. I’m trying to put messages and films out into a world where people don’t think about these issues, and that is why I am set on making 8mm films. I’m not against the digital, and I think it’s good to have both digital and film. Rather, my main concern is the fact that a physical, tangible medium such as film can be lost.

Also, if we want to have a variety of ways of visual expression, then I have to question the way some people seem to abandon the film medium so easily. In fact, it’s often what might look like mistakes, like blurs, that gives rise to the beauty of 8mm film. My favorite scene in this film is where my son’s friend comes by when my son and I are talking. As you might notice, there’s no clear visual image in this scene. But I think this is what makes it the most interesting. It’s enough for the audience to be able to hear my son and his friend saying something like, “We’re going out to write a letter to our teacher!” I believe this scene would’ve been boring if it came with clear images. It’s very interesting for the audience to be able to imagine something just by listening to the sound, and there’s a sense of excitement about not knowing what happens. This is how a film gives new imagination to human beings.

(Compiled by Morisue Noriko)

Interviewers: Morisue Noriko, Okawa Akihiro / Translator: Morisue Noriko
Photography: Nagayama Momo / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2017-09-26 in Tokyo