(Discussed further in Episode 5 of the podcast I am in, Digitized Desperadoes. Here's a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWmf9zO83y8 )
It’s an art film about a 27-year old, stuck on her past as a 10-year old, finding her way in life. It hits a lot of beats typical of these kinds of stories, with a feeling of spiritualism and meandering, while culminating at an emotional head, where she finally “chooses” the “better life.” This turns out to be problematic in execution.
There are two halves of this movie- the older Taeko, and the child Taeko. The film is told as older reminiscing about younger, but it feels… off. We see very little of older Taeko’s life beyond her working at the farm, and we exclusively see a specific age of the younger, 5th grade, 10 years old. This is both unrealistic and harmful, as some of the young segments end up feeling pointless or strange, even if they are meant to be wandering memories.
It is beautiful, no doubt. The motion and facial expression, for 1991, is impressive and charming, and the waterpainted backdrops are breathtaking. The music is mostly borrowed from Eastern European folk songs, which is odd, but it works well in context.
I can’t help but feel a level of disappointment that so much time is spent on her memories rather than her current life. I felt a disconnect- that the people were so thoroughly divorced from each other. There was absolutely nothing shown in those 17 years that rationalize or help the audience understand how she has gone from her traditional family life, her troubles with school, and her stubborn personality, to the mature self in the future. We see no dissatisfaction with city life, we exclusively hear the older self saying basic things like “I feel at home in the country.” I guess when the younger wanted to go on vacation she just wanted to go the country? Which is symbolic I guess? But it’s mentioned once and never again.
Overall, most of the younger segments feel unnecessary, and I much prefer the older segments. The best example of this is that at the end credits, there’s a beautiful montage of her reconsidering her life in the train, with her young self and friends watching in the back of her mind, but physically present. It’s beautiful, a perfect representation of growing up and moving on. But it’s only once. It should’ve been the entire film. Rather than constantly cut to jarring and unfitting flashbacks, why not make the distances between the two eras even closer? Why not make the whole film literally drift between past and present? It feels like a waste.
I think I get the film. I get the theme, I get some of the functions as both a period piece and a sort of older coming-of-age, but I don’t like it, and I feel like it’s not executed as well as it could be. 6/10.