I was reminded of this anime feature from Japan after watching ‘Your Name’. They may not be in the same league in terms of quality but the story is an interesting one. It is told in flashback. Taku sees a woman at the train station and remembers how she came into his life. We see the story unfold starting at the point where Rikako joined his High School, transferring from Tokyo.
She is bright but arrogant and finds it hard to fit in. Taku, along with his friend Yutaka, is fascinated by her but not sure how to take her. She seems content to use her new found friends when it suits her, borrowing money when she needs it and failing to pay it back, for instance, and she thinks nothing of phoning Taku to rescue her from an old boyfriend when her date turns sour but seems not to recognise that he has feelings for her.
The film was the work of younger Studio Ghibli animators and it is best seen as a work of emerging artists. It is an interesting work, nevertheless.
This excellent 2016 anime from Japan makes you think about identity and gender. The concept of a boy and a girl changing places is one that has been explored in other films but this one has an extra dimension of time and chronology to add to the mix. The high school boy from Tokyo and the girl of the same age from rural Japan swap places unwillingly and realise that this new life is bringing around changes in their personalities as well as their fortunes.
There is a lot of fun to be had from the gender swap concept but the film is less interested in gender difference and more interested in personality. This makes it a more perceptive film. Their friends notice the differences in their manners before they do. In agreeing to communicate with each other, they set up a very modern solution to the problem: mobile phones are used to record diary entries. When back in their own bodies, they can see what ‘they’ might have done the day before. This is best shown when the boy goes on a date his other self set up for him.
Then the swapping stops! To lose the central idea of the film about two thirds through is a brave choice as the story develops into one of a young man pursuing a young woman who knows him like nobody else. This task seems impossible when his research in news media tells him it would be a waste of time.
I watched the version with sub-titles so that I could hear the Japanese language, even though I don’t understand it. I could not cope with American voices taking over, acting like a cultural gravy over the whole affair.
Mokoto Shinkai directed the film. Ryunosuke Kamiki played the young man and Mone Kamishiraishi played the young woman.
‘Your Name’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?
This 2016 film from Thomas Vinterberg, while not his best work, is interesting. The cast includes actors well-known internationally from other Danish films in an exploration of the conflicts of communal living and personal desires.
Ulrich Thomsen and Trine Dyrholm play a married couple who inherit a large family house and decide to invite others to live there with them. The disparate group they put together form a sort of extended family in the best spirit of communal living. Their relationship fractures, though, when he has an affair with a student at the University where he lectures and, rather than keep it quiet, he confesses to his wife and they split… sort of, since neither moves out.
The spirit of inclusion engendered by the commune is now called upon to include his new partner and the communal members decide to invite her to live with them all. The effect on wife, husband and daughter may be obvious but the film shows the individuals dealing with the reality as it touches on their principles. Set in the 70s, the film is an interesting exploration of themes of peace and conflict.
Central to this film version of Andreas Steinhofel’s amazing novel is the theme of identity. Phil has a gap in his knowledge of himself since his mother, called Glass by everyone, refuses to reveal the name of his father. Phil and his twin Diane grow up in an unconventional way with a mother who is something of a free spirit in a large house that is remarkable because of its bohemian look. The rest of the town may look down on them because of their unorthodox lifestyle but they don’t care because they have each other.
I declare the following: I thought the book was amazing. I loved it when I first read it which was when it first appeared in English, translated from German. I also love the work of Andreas Steinhofel. I did not love this film but I liked it!
Phil is gay so when he meets Nicholas and is smitten he is thrilled to have his feelings returned. The relationship becomes a sexual one and Phil finds himself accepted by somebody outside his family which is just as well as this is the moment when conflict between Diane and Glass threatens their unit. Things are made worse by the fact that neither sister nor mother will tell him why they are in dispute.
Phil retreats into his relationship and appears to have found love. There is even room for Phil’s best and long term friend Kat and the three become friends. Glass may reject lovers after just a short while but Phil is different. So when the betrayal comes, of friend Kat and boyfriend Nicholas, the pain is acute. When the truth of the rift between Diane and Glass is revealed Phil questions his place in the family.
The film has reduced aspects of the book, how could it do otherwise and stay within a reasonable theatrical showing duration? Yet, for me, although the relationship between the two boys is well portrayed and the pain shown by Phil when he realises Kat has betrayed him is poignant, many of the other characters lose their fullness and come across as self- centred or immature, as in the case of Kat and Glass, or are not well developed at all, as in the case of Diane.
Louis Hofmann is brilliant as Phil. ‘Centre of My World’ enters my hinterland but mostly so it can sit alongside the book which remains a true artistic expression of young love.
Frisch verliebt: Phil (Louis Hofmann, li.) und Nicholas (Jannik Schümann, re.)
Cross cultural relationships are a common theme in films and television but what makes this 2012 film from director Katarzyna Klimkiewicz different is the fact that we are never sure if the Algerian student has an ulterior motive for starting a relationship with the older engineer who just happens to be working on a highly sensitive aerospace contract for the military.
Helen McCrory plays the ambitious engineer at the top of her game who meets Kahil at a lecture she gives at the local university. He is impressed by her lecture and says so when he passes her in the car park. Another incidental meeting sparks her interest and they meet up and start a relationship. McCrory’s Frankie is following in the footsteps of her father who worked on Concorde. Like him, she places work first and his worries about her developing relationship are heightened by the fact that he is ‘foreign’. His worries start to transfer themselves to Frankie who, having met Kalil’s friends at his house, wonders if she is being used.
The film is an excellent exploration of people’s motives and our prejudices; we often keep these hidden but they lie just below the surface.
Najib Oudghiri plays Kahil as a straightforward young man yet the doubts remain and the tension is maintained throughout the film. Security officers, team members and Kahil’s friends all have views about the relationship and the ending, when it comes, acts as a mirror to our current concerns. The film’s title is well-earned!
‘Flying Blind’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?
This Dutch film by director Rudolph Van den Berg from 2012 tells the story of Walter Süskind a German Jew who helped Jewish children escape from the transports to concentration camps from Amsterdam.
The story shows how the organisation of the transports was facilitated by a Jewish Council. The German occupying army insisted that Jews were deported so lists were drawn up to make sure this happened. The Council had a large role to play in this and the film explores the conflict faced by Walter in aiding the operation. His German background helped him develop something of a friendship with the German officer overseeing the deportations.
His role as manager of the theatre was pivotal when the building became used as the mustering station for people preparing to leave. Over the road was a nursery that was used as a gathering point for the children. His access to both allowed him to manipulate the lists and keep the children off the transports to Westerbork.
As the film progresses, so does Walter’s understanding of the purpose of the transports and we see how he tries to reconcile his role in this with his Jewishness. Around him are characters who articulate the different viewpoints on how to handle their situation. With his own family under threat, the need to save children becomes his guiding principle.
The film ends with a note of optimism, not easy given that history tells us that all of his family died at the hands of the Nazis. There is a message at the end in support of the charity, War Child, in recognition that children are too often the victims of wars they did not cause.
This 2016 film from director Henry Coombes only made it into my hinterland because the part of Albert, played by co-writer David Sillars, is so engaging and entertaining. He plays an older gay man in semi- retirement who is called upon by an old friend to help her grandson with his depression. Albert, once a Jungian counsellor, now spends most of his time in his dirty apartment painting. He does not welcome distractions but agrees to help out his old friend.
Ben, the grandson who arrives for his sessions, is sweet enough but in a relationship with a boyfriend so unpleasant that you sort of get the feeling that ditching him might be all the advice he needs from Albert.
The film works only because of the central performance of Sillars who is great when conducting counselling sessions and when dancing in the gay club. He carries the film and this does weaken the whole enterprise as, when he isn’t on screen, the story is less powerful. Power to the elbow of Henry Coombes for trying, though. The film is never less than interesting!