by Kei Kumai, Japan: 1992
1991. A writer, who is looking for a new subject for a novel and a director of a school are regarding a strange natural phenomen: phosphorizing moss. "It depends on the point of view, from what you are regarding it." Nothing is simple. Everything has different facets. A picture which is also suitable for other films of the Japanese Kei Kumai. UMI TO DOKUYAKU from 1986 is a film about criminal medicinical experiments with war prisoners near the end of the Second worldwar, told in flashbacks during a trial. SEN NO RIKYU from 1989 is a film about the life of the famous teamaster Rikyu, researched by two of his scholars 27 years after his executed suicide.
HIKARIGOKE is also a reconstruction of the past. It begins and ends with a frame plot. The main plot is just at the beginning told in form of an objective report. The school director tells the writer of a true event which happened 1943: A captain of a ship reaches alone as the only survivor a village. When the people celebrate him as a hero, they find at the beach a wooden box with parts of human bones. This discovering is followed by a horrible confession: The captain has survived through canibalism.
A "flashback": Four soldiers in a rockcave in the north of Japan, prisoned by ice and snow storm. This four men could be the last survivors of the world. The feeling we follow an authentic story disappears. The cave is changing into a stage. The light reminds more and more in the beginning of the "expressionistic" silent films. Fog, strange theatralic playing actors. The faces of the deaths and the dying are forced to a grotesque paleness. Once you see how a soldier is eating human flesh. The film is balancing on a small line. The kind of performance seems to be strange. Everything seems to be overdone in penetrance. But then, as well disturbing, a fade out. Some seconds darkness. A fade up to the face of the writer, who is in his thoughts, in the half dark of a not completly defineable room. HIKARIGOKE does not deal with the naturalistic reconstruction of reality, but filtered and forced by the experimental imagination of a writer. You must not one moment loose the attention in a film by Kei Kumai. What seemed to be banale and overdone is suddenly changed into disturbing pictures of many facets.
The Court room, dark green walls. The dresses of the judges are almost invisible in front of the backround. The accused stand in the middle of the room. His dress is very shiny. The structure of this rooms remains undefinable, the faces of the judges and advocats are stoned. The judges look at the accused with a mimic of sure justice. The accused insists that only his victims and the persons who experinced a likely situation like him have the right to justify him. He does not make the smallest try to defend himself. War is eating and to be eaten. Then you see the faces of the Judges framed into a green luminous shine, which is only visible for the captain. But it is not a pretentious symbol, because we recognize this green from the beginning of the film. It is a try of the writer to give his visions richness. Reflections of a phantasizing writer - which is not the final product of his imagination, but the transparence of a creative process. The performance in a performance makes the material visible on which it consists. Bomb alarm. Everybody excerpt the accused are leaving the room. The following scene is populated with phantoms which begin to get a life of itself in the phantasy of the writer and which now turns out out of control.
The writer thanks the director and after the farewell we see how his car disappears. The face of the school director during regarding the green moss. It is the face of the actor Rentaro Mikuni, who played also the role of the captain. He will never realize, that his face is becoming an inspiration for a character in a novel. Like the strange irritating luminous moos, he has become a colour on the palette of the writer.
(first published in filmwaärts, Hannover, Summer 1992)
a link to a text on Kumai´s FUKAI KAWA and a Hommage to Kei Kumai.