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.

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!









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。



 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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