Himizu began life as a manga, but following the tsunami of March 2011, Sono Sion altered the story a little in order to take a long look at Japanese society since the disaster. This was a brave decision, and an important one. It means that Himizu is much more than a simple film; it is a cultural reference point not just for those directly affected by the tsunami, but for everyone.
Sumida (Shota Sometani) is a teenager. He lives at home with his mother in a shack by a lake, where they rent out boats for a living. Their relationship is strained at best. Indeed, Sumida gets on better with the rag-tag collection of people outside who have been made homeless by the tsunami. It is not long before his mother leaves. His father has also left, and returns every so often money. Generally incredibly drunk, he will beat Sumida and tell him how much he wishes his son hadn’t been born.
Sumida begins to crack.
Keiko (Fumi Neikado) is in Sumida’s class and has a crush on him. She identifies with his desire to simply ‘be normal’ and sets out to win his affection. Keiko’s parents are planning to kill her, and are building gallows at home with which to hang her.
Himizu takes a very harsh view on the way that Japanese society is looking after the younger generation. Parents in the film are selfish, inept or murderous. The teacher and television commentators keep repeating that ‘things will be okay’ despite evidence to the contrary, and have lost any authority. The only section of society that is thriving is the criminal underworld, who are feeding off the panic and destruction.
For many characters, the tsunami wasn’t simple a disaster, it was the apocalypse. they have lost everything and will never recover. Himizu uses shots of destroyed towns to really bring home how real the damage is. Characters imagine themselves walking amongst the ruins. This frames the entire film, and give the story being told some real gravity.
The sound work is also excellent. The music has been carefully chosen. Beyond this, though, rumbles and tones, clicks and other noises provide a texture and intensity to the film that would otherwise be missing. I had worried that this would be lost outside of a cinema, but actually I found that it was just as effective on the small screen.
At its heart, Himizu is about the relationship between Keiko and Sumida, but it manages to be so much more than that too. A very important, very daring film and definitely one to add to your DVD collection.
Himizu is released on DVD today.
‘Making of’ documentary, which includes insightful interviews and plenty of behind the scenes footage. Very interesting – I wish all such docs were to this standard.
Deleted and extended scenes
Interview with Denden about Himizu and other work.