Written by Reiji Ooba | Review by Prarthana MitraWatching my home seven years after the Great East Japan Earthquake, I can safely say this is the first instance I have seen such a subject dealt with humour. However dark, absurd and fantastical that treatment may be, in Reiji Ooba’s short film, there is an earnest attempt to put the horrors behind and make sense of its metaphysics. And music plays an important role in this cathartic tale.
The title borrows itself from a magical ballad (possibly fictitious), that recurs throughout the film, with the singular intention to beckon spirits back home. Steeped in Japanese lore and popular culture, my home scores high points in managing to maintain a banal and matter-of-fact, almost upbeat tone. When in fact, it deals with an otherwise sombre subject, focusing on the lives and deaths of victims, before and after a massive earthquake.
A homage to the thousands of wrecked lives and all those stories that were brutally cut short due to the disaster, Ooba becomes the mouthpiece for all the ghosts trapped in a liminal place between heaven and home, between land and sky. The young Japanese couple at the heart of this drama are unable to fit into their old lives anymore, nor do they know how to move on to the next world, thus caught in an unenviable limbo.
The movie intersperses their trials and tribulations with picturesque visuals of coastal Japan and bustling marketplaces. Keeping the disaster in mind, this juxtaposition of the past and present makes a poignant statement about life—which goes on nevertheless. The sense and significance of “home”, and how it evolves despite and perhaps because of calamities, is developed rather well over the course of 22 minutes.
There are flashbacks in sepia depicting just moments before the earthquake and glimpses of their adolescent courtship, followed immediately by a cut to the present, as the pair goes about their old township in a Chaplinesque gait. A particularly macabre and evocative scene has the actors Chikako Sawai and Hitoshi Saito visiting the latter’s mother as they sit in the living room unable to reconcile with each other. The conflict between the living and the dead is brought out rather well in the absence of communication and unfamiliarity even at “home”. The song of seagulls is a critical motif in the film. Everyone who listens to the song paints his face white with bird droppings, and later in the film they realize that there is nothing on earth holding them back. The winged creatures act as messengers from heaven, reminding that this world isn’t their real home anymore. The poignancy of the situation is heightened by the general and pervasive emptiness felt both by the survivors and the victims. But in the end, both are reassured that they are where they belong.
Prarthana is presently in between odd jobs and obtaining her master’s degree in literature. She loves modern poetry and meditative cinema. Based out of Calcutta, Prarthana observes people, football, films and enjoys writing about all three. Of late, she relates to Frank Ocean’s music. Her writing experience consists of writing for various sites such as Try Cinema, The Indian Economist, Doing The Rondo, Saintbrush and various academic journals.