HKAFF: Still The Water 第二扇窗 / 2つ目の窓 (2014)  - Japan

HKAFF: Still The Water 第二扇窗 / 2つ目の窓 (2014) – Japan


Still the Water

Directed by:  Kawase Naomi
Screenplay by: Kawase Naomi
Cinematography: Yutaka Yamasaki
Starring:  Murakami Nijiro,  Yoshinaga Jun, Matsuda Miyuki,  Sugimoto Tetta

Reviewed by: Andrew Chan

Reviewed as part of 2014 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival.

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Initial Thoughts:

“Still the Water” is like the evolution of life, touching upon the man vs wild, nature overcoming humanity and love vs lost. While Kawase Naomi previous films simply implies these thoughts through beautiful images. This film relies on obvious self-conscious dialogue and ultimately suffers from a self-inflicted slow burning start. Despite a strong finish, this film is fit for festival circuit at best.

In Depth Analysis:

The film opens in a striking and captivating manner with a slow slaughter of a goat through the release of its blood, soul and ultimately the spirit within. This sets the tone of the film focusing on life and death, the struggle between nature and humanity. These are all favourite themes of auteur and Cannes regular Kawase Naomi’s body of work.

However, “Still the Water” takes an incredulous amount of time to build up a story, perhaps compromising on something the audience can identify and hold tangible with. In fact, for a good hour, the film is rather lifeless, without a core focus to follow and engage. It is this aspect that will ultimately lead to a mixed response to Naomi’s latest work, despite a strong and rather resounding finish.

The power of nature is never more evidently seen in waves after waves of brute and overwhelming forces that humanity is simply powerless to resist. Perhaps alluding to the fact that humanity only threshold for an impending victory lies in the slaughter of a helpless goat, the bottom of the food chain. Tie to the tree branch, upside down, screaming in agony, the goat representing a part of nature that is finally powerless.

Death plays a big role in most of Naomi’s work and from the floating dead tattoo body to Yoshinaga Jun’s Sharma mother impending death from terminal illness, humans forever want to live on whether it is another island far, far away or simply alluding to another world. The journey of love, life and death requires the kids to grow up at a blistering pace, this is ironic as “Still The Water” is quite the opposite in terms of pacing.

It remains ironic that the most powerful and erotic scene came at the end of the film. The intently wonderful Yoshinaga Jun and confident newcomer Murakami Nijiro releases a sense of love, fearlessness, youth and hope for humanity in face of the gigantic ocean. Their naked swim across the underwater depicts how vulnerable and fragile we are compared to the mysterious aspect of nature.

It is all the more unfortunate that a film that expresses such a powerful theme, message and produces so much aftermath thoughts and emotions, started off so feebly. “Still The Water” is likely to deter the cinematic masses, but will be a hidden delight and joy for festival indulgence. (Neo, October 2014)

I rated it 7.5 out of 10

This film world premièred at 2014 Cannes Film Festival.

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