Genre: Existential Autobiography
review in one breath
This is an impressively deep story based on the autobiography of Japanese novelist Ryu Miri. Inochi was originally published as a short story and writer Ryu Miri has gone on to write several other novels, a number of which have been translated into English. This film is directed by Shinohara Tetsuo and was awarded Grand Prix at the 47th Asia-Pacific Film Festival.
Inochi consists of Ryu's autobiographical recollection of a complex clash of circumstances she experienced as a young woman. These events not only bring into question the meaning and direction of her own life, but also of life and death in general, and the ever-recurring cycle of decay and renewal, loss and love. Within a very short interval of time, Ryu not only discovers that she is unexpectedly pregnant through an affair with a married man, but also that her true, estranged lover has been diagnosed with malignant cancer and given only a very short time to live.
Ryu Miri (played by Esumi Makiko) had held a long-term love relationship with the up and coming theatrical director Higashi Yutaka (played by Toyokawa Etsushi) which ended in separation due to Higashi's ruinous lifestyle and Ryu's desire to pursue her writing career within a healthier environment. Following this separation, Ryu entered a very short-term relationship with an unnamed married man through which she unintentionally became pregnant. While deciding what to do in response to this news, Ryu is visited by Higashi and soon thereafter learns the seriousness of his medical condition. When Higashi learns that he has mere weeks or months to live, he begins to describe Ryu's pregnancy in a new light, one which views the unborn child as in some way a renewing of himself and a continuation of himself past death. Likewise, in light of the news of Higashi's impending death, Ryu decides to give birth to the child to in some way counteract the devastating loss she will soon experience.
The scenario I just described all occurs within the opening scenes of the film and sets the stage for Higashi's very dramatic and often heart-wrenching decline toward death. This decline in health is accompanied by Ryu's increasing pregnancy, which gradually interfere's with her own health and productivity, as she seeks to care for the ailing Higashi.
The title Inochi is indeed an appropriate one for this story, as it simultaneously captures the three intertwining threads of this story. First, there is the amazingly convincing decline in Higashi's health, from trendy icon to frail and hallucinating cancer victim standing at the brink of death. Here we literally see death steadily creeping closer, overtaking what was once a vibrant and passionate life. Second, is the transformation which Ryu herself undergoes. Ryu's original outlook on life had been rather dark and she had attempted suicide on a couple occasions due to this. The unexpected pregnancy by a man whom she could never have a real relationship with seemed to heap such darkness upon her, adding to the sense of emptiness and isolation. But in Higashi's illness, something happens to her outlook, and a new perspective on the meaning of the baby is reached, one which seems to add a dimension of purpose and, eventually, fulfillment. This thread is the most complex of the three since it involves a simultaneous mix of joy and pain; joy at new birth and pain at the loss of one's only love. And third, there is the new life of the baby which brings into such sharp contrast the death of Higashi and the meaningless expressed by Ryu. The sense of death and renewal which these three threads expose is palpable, almost overwhelming.
The film itself is aptly directed by Shinohara and the acting by Esumi, Toyokawa and the other cast is superb. Audiences are presented with a convincing sequence of rather powerful events which bring into sharp focus questions as to the meaning of life, death, hope and happiness. Author Ryu simply tells you this life-changing tale and does not impose a resolution to the story nor any sermon at the end, for of course, real life offers neither resolution nor reason.
Version reviewed: Unsubtitled VHS
|Autobiographical account of incredibly deep and life-wrenching experiences.||No violence, but the spectre of death steadily approaches.||One brief scene of nudity.||You've heard that "life is stranger than fiction". Well, this will prove that life is harsher than fiction.|