May I add something before you respond? Sometimes it’s almost easier to be more deeply involved in a movie, than in life…and that can be worrisome.
Kore-eda: I think I understand that feeling of a worldview within a film often feeling more fulfilling than one’s own life. I’ve felt that, too. And that’s probably, exactly, why I spend my life creating them as well. But in After Life, what you see is that inside the film they are re-creating these movies––and they’re often cheap––they have cotton clouds and static trains, but, ultimately, it’s about the people who watch these movies and feel something real within them, because it’s part of their real life. Ultimately, in this movie, it’s not so much about the world within the movie often being more real or more fulfilling than their own. It’s their own life that they didn’t like! But through the movie of their life, they are able to see that. After Life is all about capturing that expression when the people recognize this through the movie, because it’s their own real life.
I’m wondering what your inspiration for Hana was. I do see the thru-line, the similarity to your earlier films, but it’s also a new direction from your previous films.
Kore-eda: Methodologically speaking, I made a series of films that had a certain documentary touch to them. But I always realized that reality in cinema isn’t simply about documentary style. So I wanted to take on the challenge of making more genre films, or films that are known as more fictional pieces, like musicals or period films. I’d felt this way since Distance, so in Hana, I did try to take on that challenge.
Also, I’d made a series of dark-themed films, and I wanted to make something where you can leave the theatre with a smile and there’s a little bit of joy at the end.
Who do you make your films for?
Kore-eda: When I make a film, I always think of one person who I want to show this film to. Sometimes it’s a very specific individual, an actual face that I can conjure up, and sometimes it’s a little bit less specific. But with this particular film, it was about my mother. She loves movies and she really likes cheerful films, so I wanted to make something she would be able to enjoy. Unfortunately, she passed away before I completed this film, so she never saw it. But I did make this film as something I might be able to show her.
That’s very moving. I appreciate you mentioning this, and I’m sorry for your loss.
Last question. (I ask all directors this question.) Do you feel any sense of hope or optimism about the state of our world today?
Kore-eda: Japan included, I don’t think the world is in a very good state at all. That said, I think that if I were completely hopeless, I wouldn’t be making films right now. I make films because there is some hope.
Cathleen Rountree is a film journalist and author of nine books, including The Movie Lovers’ Club, about the process of creating community through finding meaning in movies. She covers film festivals and writes extensively about films and directors for various venues, including Documentary Magazine, Release Print and Greencine. She teaches Writing and Multicultural Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Read her blog on Women in World Cinema at www.womeninworldcinema.org.
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