Saturday, October 18, 2008

[TIFF 2008 Review] Echo of Silence (コトバのない冬) (World Premiere)


Have you ever lost something as precious as a friendship? And it's not out of a conscious decision to do so, but rather by circumstances beyond your control? Echo of Silence explores this aspect of a fragile friendship between two lonely souls, brought together by Fate on a snowy day, bringing about the adage of a world without strangers and a tinge of bittersweet melancholy where you feel sorry for the characters at what could and should have happened and progressed.

The movie moves at a meditative pace, and actor turned director for the first time Atsuro Watabe kept things extremely simple, yet grappling with the vast emotions of its lead characters at a microscopic level. We follow Fusako Kurokawa, whose life revolves around her work at the horse ranch, and helping her dad Ryo at his pharmacy doing drug deliveries in her red jeep, which stands out in the whiteness of the wintry landscape north of Japan. Her lifestyle seems rote, and in contrast with her sister's, who is a fashion model in the cosmopolitan city of Tokyo.

It seemed like a snapshot of her mundane everyday life, until she's caught in heavy snow, and meets a mute man who works at an old amusement park, and strikes a budding friendship with him. Naturally you don't expect conventional communications between the two, so it's mostly herself finding a listening ear in sharing her thoughts and dreams, such as her admiration of people with ambition. Being at the amusement park also allows her to reminisce fond memories of a bygone age.

We usually warm up to people and be comfortable with their presence, and in her new friend, Fusako probably found tranquility, while bringing about a positive effect to his as demonstrated through his withdrawal from a lonely shell of a life. But the film would not have its swansong delivered if not for yet another cruel twist of fate, and from a life changing experience enjoyed by both parties, it becomes the beginning of what ifs and what could have been.

Shot against beautiful landscape and scenery that will take your breath away, it's quite amazing to know that the film is comprised of scenes done only in one take, where the director hoped to have captured all the raw emotions succinctly and avoid too much engineering. While this may have been the gimmick in the movie, it's largely non-intrusive and you probably won't even realize this when sitting through it. But technicalities aside, the payload realy delivered the final sucker punch, especially for folks who have from time to time sense a deja-vu, and worst, having to be dead sure about something that's on the tip of the tongue, but try as hard as you can, just can't get it out.

Having a mute person resort to a phone call to reconnect, now that's just plan cruel. And the stars do have a funny way of dealing with us pawns, in having what is meant to be, come revisit us from time to time, planting its seeds of doubt and sense of loss, even when you can't put a finger to it. For that reason alone, which the movie brought out almost perfectly, it was worthwhile to have sat through this despite my adverseness to slow paced films doing so for the sake of it.

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