How to describe “To the End of the Earth”? I can tell you this is an excellent character study: Yoko (Atsuko Maeda), a young Japanese TV journalist, travels to Uzbekistan for an assignment, and gradually falls into an emotional crisis after a series of misunderstandings remind her that she is a single woman. abroad, doing work that requires his enthusiasm, but doesn’t really value his input.
I can also tell you that “To the Ends of the Earth” is a film in which exterior photography with beautiful lighting and frames, as well as performances centered on very precise body language, often convey more than most dialogue can. . This is the kind of arthouse drama that is lauded in its press notes with praise for director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “mise en scene”, or the arrangement of objects within the camera frame. Trying to explain how the film works that well, without using excessive jargon or any kind of audiovisual aid, it’s tricky because “To the End of the Earth” is nothing more than the heroine’s uncertain relationship with her alien surroundings. , and what he chooses to communicate simply by being seen and heard. Which is often thrilling to look at, but not so much to explain.
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Still, I’ll try it in college. You can almost always understand what’s going on with Yoko without ever really knowing how she’s feeling because Maeda’s character doesn’t often explicitly explain things through literal dialogue or canned confrontation. Yoko’s behavior suggests that she is “cautious and petty like most young Japanese people,” as the film’s press notes put it: she’s aloof when she’s not on the phone, happy to text her firefighter boyfriend Ryo (never seen or heard) , and sometimes it takes a short time. side trip alone.
And when Yoko is at work, she often suppresses her emotions in order to appear as an enthusiastic and engaged host. He smiled and commented on the “crispy” taste of raw rice in a bowl of “plov,” a local dish—the chef didn’t have time to properly cook the rice before the sudden photo shoot—and pretended to casually shake off the intense nausea. after she took three consecutive spins on the park’s fun pendulum rides (the camera crew couldn’t get enough B-camera footage of Yoko’s face after just one or two shots).
Yoko is also diligent about avoiding men and other locals when she sneaks out of her hotel room to get food or look around. His mind sometimes wanders, like when he visits a concert hall, and he fantasizes about performing on stage with a small orchestra sitting in front of him. The staging, lighting, and pacing of this incredibly bizarre sequence (it’s all a dream!) reveal its character: the camera follows Maeda from behind at close range as Yoko enters and prepares to emerge from a series of beautifully decorated rooms. arabesques at the end of each aisle. In this scene, Yoko is never shown leaving the room; he approached the end of one hall, and then reappeared on the far side (or in the middle) of another room. She finally appeared on stage, and sang a moving version of Edith Piaf’s “Hymne a L’Amour. The theater stage seems wide enough that the orchestra pit below looks to us like the outside of a zoo enclosure; for one rare moment, we are inside with Yoko looking out.
Thankfully, the rest of “To the End of the Earth” isn’t as impersonal or cold as that last line might suggest. Ambience often trumps storytelling in Kurosawa’s films, as he explained to me when we talked about his aptly titled “Scary.” The fluid camera, smooth lighting cues, and rich depth of field make every scene a pleasure to view thanks to Kurosawa and regular collaborator/cinematographer Akiko Ashizawa. The subtle, yet instrumental contribution of sound designer Kenji Shibasaki to the film’s multi-layered soundtrack is also noteworthy.
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All this perfectly pared down style brings things back to Yoko, who internalizes it so much that when she finally tries to express herself it’s understandably not an intuitive process. He tries to free an underfed goat during a segment of an improv trip, but only ends up leading the poor animal to doom (There are stray dogs in the area, and negligent animal owners should be paid to stay away). There was also some discussion about what the sea symbolized, although it was ultimately inconclusive: “I heard this is a dangerous place. It has nothing to do with freedom.” This line is especially funny considering how deep and often stunning “To the End of the Earth” is as an everyday portrait of a young woman struggling to enjoy her own freedom. That sentiment may be difficult to explain in the abstract,