Written and directed by Momoko Ando
Kakera centres on two very different women, Haru, a college student who is frustrated with her slobbish and indifferent boyfriend and her unfolding love with medical artist Riko, whose infatuation with Haru opens many challenging questions about love and identity for both.
The daughter of an acclaimed actor-director Eiji Okuda, 27 year old Momoko Ando has adapted her debut film from Erika Sakurazawa’s best-selling Manga novel ‘Love Vibes’(1996) – itself categorised as Manga style Josei, aimed at mature female readership portraying realistic everyday experiences.
By selecting films that were made for their local audience and so representative of their own true culture, Kakera’s UK distribution company Third Window Films aims to remedy the misconceptions of East Asian Cinema brought about by styles like Asia extreme (which are made entirely with a western audience in mind) and ensure that the viewer experience is authentic.
Very rarely do we watch a film with absolutely no prior knowledge of its origins; the director, an actor, the story or its historical context all shape our opinions of it before the first image has even appeared.
Most of our exposure to Hollywood films, even those considered outside the realm of “mainstream” involve storylines that attempt to neatly encapsulate the human experience from the perspective of the writer/director and their predictable formula is often seen as reassuring.
Not being able to anticipate the direction of a storyline can be a very daunting experience for the viewer. Coupled with the very alien nature of Asian culture to a western audience and there is the individual fear that we will not be able to interpret the storyline through the varied means we use for familiar media. We place too much of our focus on the dialogue which is understood through subtitles and miss most of the communiqué that floats before us on screen.
After watching the film and feeling uneasy about interpreting its ambiguous conclusion, I tried to reflect back on the many sequences that would help me develop a more complete opinion.
I thought I had reached a moment of clarity when speaking to Third Window Films MD Adam Torel about my need for a reference point from which to establish an interpretation of the film. Without hesitation he was able to offer me the genre of “Coming of age” film and likened Momoko Andô as the Japanese equivalent of Virgin Suicides director, Sophia Coppola.
While this gave me immediate catharsis this was still not to satisfy me; It’s not reasonable to appreciate a film simply for its connection or similarity to another.
It was only the following day that I was reminded by my lecturer that a film is not only the result of story and characters but it is also a sensory experience; that rather than viewing the unfamiliar with anxiety and reservation, simply accepting the individual moments of a film can be a liberating experience.
And Kakera delivers so many moments that resonate on later recollection. The delicate acoustic soundtrack by James Iha (former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist) and the beautiful Cinematography by Hirokazu Ishii underscore the refreshingly candid exchanges between Haru and Riko and display a sense of innocence and uncertainty. These instances of rare intimacy are juxtaposed against a suburban backdrop of Tokyo that offers an insightful look at Haru and Rikos complex and multilayered lives.
Due to be released in April 2010 in Japan and the UK