Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Eri, Eri, rema sabachttani? (Shinji Aoyama, 2005)

Eri, Eri, rema sabachttani? (Shinji Aoyama, 2005)
Rating: 9.4

In the opening sequence of Shinji Aoyama’s My God, My God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me? two men wearing protective masks and goggles walk along a beach. For the first several minutes of the film, not a word is spoken between them. Using extreme long shots, Aoyoma shows the vast empty landscape the men are traveling across as the soundtrack plays somewhat eerie droning music over the sounds of the wind blowing and waves crashing. Soon a saxophone chimes in as the two men explore a tent. We see a shot of a kitchen table still containing food as flies buzz around it, another shot of exposed legs of a supposed corpse, a hole in the tent, and a photograph of a family. After exploring the tent the two men begin rummaging through the junk that is lying around. The next several sequences show the men interacting with different objects to create different sounds as they record them. Mizui releases a deck of cards into the wind while Asahara turns the dial of an old radio that can’t find a signal as static blares from it. They also discover a hose-like tube that creates a whistling hum when twirled around. In the following scene it is revealed that the men are noise musicians. Mizui attaches the pieces of the tubing to an umbrella and then attaches that to a fan, thus creating his own unique instrument.
Aoyama shows us the process by which these musicians manipulate their environment to create music which is equally important to the finished product itself and the ephemeral listening experience. Later we discover that an epidemic that is causing people to kill themselves, known as the Lemmings Syndrome is causing the deaths of millions of people worldwide. Despite the existence of this life altering disease, Asahara, who actually has the disease, and Mizui don’t seem to concern themselves with it much at all. The filmmaker doesn’t linger on this aspect of the film as much as we would suspect either. There are brief shots of dead bodies on the sides of the road, and hanging from telephone poles, but the major focus is really on the music. Aoyama gives us long extended scenes where the musicians are performing or composing their art. Natsuishi thinks that there is a link between the music of Stepin Fetchit and a cure for Lemmings Syndrome, so he takes his granddaughter Hana to their home to seek their help.
The idea of the music being a dreamlike transcendental experience able to cure a disease that causes suicidal tendencies and breeds on misery is an interesting concept. Following Asahara’s sudden death, Mizui explains to Hana that “it comes down to the will to recover.” Navi says she doesn’t think about death and has no fear of it. So how does the music factor into this? Perhaps Aoyama is inferring the interaction with and creation of art is a means of hope and distraction from death. During the final musical performance, there is a shot of Mizui playing his guitar which is overlapped by another shot of a bird flying in the air. This juxtaposition seems to be linking music with freedom. After his performance he tells Hana that “like music, you and I are a dream.” This film uses minimal dialogue, meticulous pacing, stark open landscape, and more to create an experience and mood, more than a strong narrative, much like dreams and music do.

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