Guest in Focus: Yukiko MISHIMA

Yukiko MISHIMA, director of Shape of Red, was born in Osaka in 1969. After graduating from Kobe College, she worked at the TV broadcasting station NHK before completing her first cinema feature, SHISEI: LIKE A SMELLING MOON, in 2009. Since then, she has worked as a director and script writer for cinema as well as TV productions. Her family drama DEAR ETRANGER (2017 / NC ’18) was shown at international film festivals and received numerous awards. We are very glad she took the time to answer our  questions for our Guest in Focus series.


Where did you get the idea for your latest film? 

Doing acting workshops, I always have the impression that many young actors and actresses are really scared of showing their own emotions or saying their own opinion. For example, they are careful not to utter their opinion before they heard what the people around them will say. The same goes for people working in companies: often they directly take in results from marketing research or opinions from social media etc. without expressing their own opinion. Before we even realized it, individual opinions and emotions were squeezed somewhere deep inside, and a mysterious ‘someone’s’ opinion became ‘the society’. At times, it even frightens me to live in such an era where the distance between the individual and the society is so unbalanced. 

So, when I was in my twenties and hesitating about my life choices, I remembered what a woman older than me had once told me: “In life, no matter how much you fall in love (no matter how much you love someone, no matter how much you love something), won’t we all die in the end?” And I thought: In this case, wouldn’t it be good for all of us, including myself, to explore the emotions and standards which are at the base of each individual – what do we want to love, who do we want to love? – more thoroughly and follow them?

And so, I wanted to create a fresh portray of someone who had suppressed his or her desires all along and then throws away everything in order to act honestly with himself/herself, even if the society doesn’t consider it the right decision, such as Stephen Daldry did in THE HOURS (2002) or Todd Haynes in CAROL (2015). This would result in a movie which helps us question our own way of living in a stronger way.

NC20_Cinema_Shape of Red_03

What was the biggest challenge while making your latest film?

The ‘home = family’ and the individual in Japanese society is one of my personal topics. With this movie, the challenge was how to visualize the loneliness of belonging to a ‘family’, and the loneliness of not belonging to a ‘family’. Even in contemporary Japan, the ‘family’ is considered important because it indicates to which group, that is, to which lineage you belong. At times it can even crush the ‘individual’ and lead a person into loneliness.

When I was thinking about this topic, an architect told me: “When you build a house, you first think about where to put the windows. And the reason is that a ‘house/home’ shall be the answer to this question: Looking at what and with whom do you want to spend your life?” All the time, my perspective had been on breaking free from the home/family. Then for the first time, my perspective changed to the pursuit of the ‘ideal home/family’. That’s why I let the two protagonists in this movie work in architecture, in order to visualize their desire for an ideal home and the question what they want to see together.

How did the current crisis impact your work as a filmmaker?

Currently, I’m working on a independent movie: I have asked actors and actresses who attended my workshops to record their daily lifes on video under the title “My Day – April, 2020”. Talking to them remotely, I notice there are a lot of complex emotions which normally wouldn’t have evolved. And all of these emotions arising are very human, and pursuing humanity.

The initial impulse came on my birthday. The movie that I was planning to shoot in May also got postponed and I gradually felt losing my energy, which I usually mostly gain from meeting people. That night, I especially couldn’t sleep at all… Suddenly, at 4 o’clock in the morning, I heard a woman weeping from afar. Without thinking, I stepped out on the balcony, and just wanted to stand close to the weeping that lasted for a long time. After a while, the sky gradually turned white and dawn broke. Looking at the sky, I thought, I want to continue looking closely at all the sadness, anger, and joy that are born, all the emotions that are born in human beings, just as I continue to look at this sky. Without missing anything, without look away. This reminded me again that I had always been the kind of person who wants to stand close to someone’s feelings and emotions, and I felt my energy regenerating.

This is why I listen to each one of the actors and actresses, give them advice on creating a situation that allows them to face their own emotions, and let them shoot their videos. I hope they can observe the emotions that arise within themselves when they listen to the complex weeping of another woman, a fellow human being (even when it is just a recorded voice). 

Just as is the topic in Shape of Red, which you can watch here, I myself am thinking more about “whom I want to live with and what I want to see with this person” and when it comes to making movies, I think from now on, even more than before, I should and I can only create things that drive me with passion and love.

SHAPE OF RED
Japan 2020, 123 min
Watch the film HERE
 from June 9 to 14, 2020
at the 20th Nippon Connection Film Festival
Check out the trailer!


新作のアイディアはどこで得たものですか。

演技ワークショップをしていて感じるのは、多くの若い役者達が自分の感情を出したり意見を言うことを本当に怖がるということです。例えば、まわりの意見を聞いてからでないと自分の意見を言えなかったりする。企業で働く方も、マーケティングリサーチの結果やSNSなどの意見をそのまま受け入れ、自分の意見は言わないことが多いと感じていました。いつの間にか、個の意見や感情は奥深くに押しこめられて、得体のわからない〝だれかの意見=社会〟に縛られている。そんな個人と社会との距離にバランスがとれてない時代に恐怖すら感じることがあります。

 そんな中で自分自身が人生の選択に躊躇していた20代のとき、年上の女性に言われた言葉を思い出しました。「人生なんて、どれだけ惚れて(どれだけ誰かを愛し、どれだけ何かを愛して)、死んでいけるかじゃないの?」。だから個人の根っ子にある「何を愛したいのか。誰を愛したいのか」という感情や尺度を、自分も含めそれぞれがもっときちんと見つめて、それに従ってもいいのではないか、そんなことを思考しました。

 それで、スティーヴン・ダルドリーの『めぐりあう時間たち』(02)や、トッド・ヘインズの『キャロル』(15)のように、それまで自分の欲求を押さえつけていた人が、たとえそれが世間では正しくない選択だとしても、すべてを捨てて自分に正直に行動する姿を、鮮明に、描こうと思いました。そうすることで、より力強くそれぞれの生き方を問う映画になると考えたのです。

今回の映画制作・撮影中での一番大きなチャレンジは何でしたか?

日本社会の〝家=ファミリー〟と個人については、私のテーマのひとつでもあるのですが、今作のチャレンジとしては、〝家〟に属する孤独と〝家〟に属さない孤独を視覚化するためにどうするか、ということでした。〝家〟は、現代の日本においても、どの共同体つまり、どの血筋に属しているかを示す大事なものとされており、時にそれは〝個〟を押しつぶして、その人を孤独に導きます。

 そんなことを考えている中で、ある建築家がこんな話をしてくれました。「家の設計は、まず窓をどこに配するかを考える。なぜなら〝家〟は、誰と、何を観て過ごしたいか、を追求するものであるから」。ずっと、〝家〟からの解放、を求めていた自分の視点が、初めて〝理想の家〟を追求するという視点になりました。だからこの作品では、主要人物を建築の仕事をしている人々という設定に決め、二人が希求する理想の家、そして二人で何を見たいのか、を視覚化していくことにしました。

今回の危機はあなたの映画人としての仕事にどのように影響を与えましたか?

いま、自主映画で、ワークショップを受けてくれた役者の皆さんにそれぞれの「My Day(わたしの一日)  April,2020」として日常を動画で記録してもらっています。彼らとリモートで話していて感じるのは、普段なら生まれない複雑な感情がたくさん生まれていて、そのどれも人間らしく、また人間らしさを追求するものだということです。

 きっかけは、自分の誕生日でした。5月に撮影予定だった作品も延期となり、人間と会うことで力をもらっていた自分の中の力が少しずつ失われていくのを感じました。その日の夜は特に全然眠れなくて…そうしたら、朝の4時に泣きじゃくる女の人の声が遠くから聞こえてきたんです。思わずベランダに出て、長く聞こえてくるその泣き声に寄り添いたいと思いました。しばらくすると段々空が白んで夜が明けてきました。その空を見ていて思ったんです。私は、この空を見続けているように、いま生まれている、哀しみも怒りも喜びも楽しさ、人間の中に生まれる感情、すべてを見つめ続けたい。逃さないように、目をそらさずに。そして、自分はずっと、誰かの感情に寄り添う、ということがしたい人間だったのだとあらためて気付かされ、力が漲ってきました。

 それで、役者達ひとりひとりの話を聞いて、彼ら自身が彼らの感情と向き合えるようなシチュエーションのアドバイスを与えた上で撮影をしてもらっています。そして、彼らが、録音した声にはなりますが、同じ一人の女性の複雑な泣き声を聞いたとき、どんな感情が生まれるのか見つめられたらと思います。

 今回皆様に観ていただく〝Shape of Red〟のテーマもそうですが、自分自身も、より「誰と何を見て生きて行きたいのか」を思考しているし、映画作りで言えば、今まで以上に、情熱と愛情に突き動かされるものしか作ってはいけない気がするし、作れないと思っています。

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