A Japanese Somber Period Drama – The Hollywood Reporter

At the end of 18order century, a long and devastating famine swept the Tohoku region of northeastern Japan. It was caused by a volcanic eruption, followed by several years of catastrophically bad weather. As a result, nearly a million people died of starvation.

That’s the setting for Mountain woman, a bleak period drama by writer-director Takeshi Fukunaga that uses famine as a setting to depict a young girl’s arduous quest for survival. Stunning footage from cinematographer Daniel Satinoff (who worked on the HBO series Max Tokyo Vice), the film has moments of hauntingly poetic visuals, but tends to be weighed down by a sluggish plot and a large amount of sickness.

Mountain woman

Key point

A bleak if well-made portrait of rural conflict.

Location: Tokyo International Film Festival (Competition)
Cast: Anna Yamada, Mirai Moriyama, Masatoshi Nagase, Ryutaro Ninomiya, Toko Miura
Manager: Takeshi Fukunaga
Writer: Takeshi Fukunaga, Ikue Osada

1 hour 40 minutes

Fukunaga broke through in the US in 2015 with his debut, Out of my hand, nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and published by Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY label. He displays a similar skill level in Mountain womanespecially as he conveys the quiet, sad rhythms of a small village forever on the brink of disaster – a place where people are driven to extremes by unviable conditions.

The story – co-written with Ikue Osada – revolves around Rin (Illuminated Anna Yamada), the daughter of a farmer, Ihei (Masatoshi Nagase), who has lost much of her land to the crimes committed by her ancestors. With nothing to eat and no sunlight to help new crops grow, Ihei and the other villagers grew increasingly worried about their level of despair, with only blind faith to guide them along.

That belief resembles a legend that claims that a young virgin’s sacrifice to the gods on nearby Mount Hayachine could save the village. Before long, Rin is chosen to be an offering, but not before she runs away from town after her father is accused of stealing food.

While in the forest, Rin crosses the road with a scrawny hermit (Mirai Moriyama) who looks like The Lorax and who eats raw animal flesh as a means of survival. He begins to teach Rin how to walk in the forest until the townspeople, including a lover, Taizo (Ryutaro Ninomiya), catch up with her.

Fukunaga’s direction is polished if formal, emphasizing the hopelessness in a situation that, let’s face it, is rather hopeless. His film begins with a father killing his newborn shortly after birth to avoid having another mouth to feed, and things don’t necessarily get better from there. Serious tunes can feel monotonous after a certain point, even when performances are solid, and Mountain woman never increased speed or mood enough to break out of its shell of conflict and persecution.

The final act, where Rin is captured and brought back to the village, adds some late suspense to the plot, with the others left to decide what to do with her. Suffice it to say that they were so hungry at the time, they were thinking more with their stomachs than with their brains. Perhaps the most significant scene is the one that happened earlier, when the townspeople lined up for food from the local chief, rejoicing after they were given enough rice to fill a small portion of a bento box. .

Times of despair call for desperate measures, and Fukunaga has captured that spirit very well. Working with the talented Satinoff, he gives his film a textured look with crisp, muted colors that emphasize the strength and beauty of his surroundings. Nature decides everything for these people, including whether they will live or die. By the time Rin faced her fate, her will barely mattered anymore, and whatever caused the famine in the first place would determine if she was the next victim. follow its or not.


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