And here is the rest of my Kore-eda Analysis:
Avoiding Eye Contact
More often than not, the camera waits respectfully at a
distance, is already there before someone enters a room and waits for
the characters leaving again. This evokes the typically Japanese
impression of overlong shots (a favorite Ozu technique):
With Nobody Knows
Kore-eda started to include close-ups but not yet shot - reverse-shot
setups which would enable the viewer to be in the middle of the
conversation [Kore-eda has included this device in his latest film Kiseki (2011), although only sparely]. The next clip is a shot - reverse-shot situation from Clint Eastwood's Japanese Letters from Iwo Jima followed
by a typical Kore-eda conversation among adults (from Still Walking,
2008). Especially older characters hardly look at each other when they
are talking. So whenever there is real eye contact it feels like a
hardly a co-incidence that we see the father/grandfather through a
doorframe. Kore-eda's grandfather characters usually keep aloof for a
long time. In the next clip dialogue continues even after the
grandfather (the protagonist's father) is out of the frame while we are
focusing on the son's silent reaction that suggests a difficult
By contrast, in Nobody Knows
the mother-son-relationship is reversed: The fickle mother burdens
Akira with the responsibility for his younger siblings. Again Akira is a
taciturn observer and again we witness both characters performing daily
Mother: "Tonight? Which day is it? Yes, it could get late."
Akira: "Do you eat when you come home?"
Mother: "What's on the menu?"
Akira: "Maybe curry."
Mother: "Curry? Well, then keep something for me. That'd be nice, maybe I'll eat it."
A Sense of Space
cinema has always been good at communicating atmosphere and a feeling
for the characters' surroundings. Kore-eda in particular reveals the
personality of his characters by repetition and variation of daily
routines like cooking, cleaning or shopping. All these details add up to
characters we seem to have known for a long time. And since we keep
getting new information on them over the whole length of the movie they
stay interesting. By repeating their way to school or to the supermarket
we slowly get an impression of their environment. The following montage
of Akira's way to the supermarket not only indicates seasons (the tree
in the upper left corner) but also how Akira feels when ascending or
descending the stairs.
Downplaying emotional moments
of the outstanding strengths of Kore-eda's films is his handling of
emotional or even melodramatic scenes. As the following two clips
demonstrate, they hardly evoke any emotions when seen out of context
although they depict moments within the story that are truly
heartbreaking and it is hardly possible to see them dry-eyed within the
context of the film.
When Akira's sister discovers that
Akira faked the last sign of life of their mother she does not confront
him or show any emotion. But since the audience knows that this
discovery is breaking her heart we are deeply moved nonetheless:
films are in line with Japanese cinema's great humanistic tradition
which reveals itself in characters who constantly seek to get rid of
selfish behaviour. Moreover, there is a higher-than-average amount of
well-meaning and benevolent characters.
When Akira is
finally out of money he still appears in the supermarket as usual.
Without a word he receives the necessary food from an employee he has
slowly befriended over the course of a year.
is a universal concept that works with almost any audience - as
Kore-eda demonstrates - even without the help of sweeping music and
The only animation director that
shares many traits of Kore-eda's style (though relying heavily on
romantic music und close-ups) might be Takahata Isao whose films keep intriguing me more everytime I manage to see one of them.