Friday, May 17, 2013
Jmoview review: The Land of Hope / Kibou no Kuni
Sono Sion's previous movie Himizu was altered and set against the backdrop of the Tohoku earthquake. Clearly the Fukushima disaster was something Sono Sion wanted to talk about and The Land of Hope is the story that he wanted to tell. The Land of hope is set in the fictional town of Nagashima where another nuclear disaster happens and residents are forced to evacuate.
Natsuyagi Isao (RIP) plays Ono, the old farmer who's house sits just outside of the border of the 20km evacuation zone. Everyone else is evacuated and Ono urges his son and daughter-in-law to leave while he stays behind with his mentally ill wife. The story is told through 3 viewpoints, Ono and his wife who refuses to leave, Ono's son and wife who move further away and a young couple who lived nearby.
There are no upskirt shots, no violence and no soliloquies with classical music. The Land of Hope is Sono Sion at his most serious and it is devoid of melodrama. Instead, it is an observation how people involved in disasters like Fukushima deal with those situations. We get some interesting commentary that's not preachy about the Japanese government keeping vital information from people and how the Japanese media propagates this as well by spreading false information that things are not that bad.
One of the interesting aspects of the movie is Japanese society's reaction to the dangers of radiation. People are made fun of being paranoid or bullied because they came from the danger areas. Its as if Japanese society puts on this face of everything will be all right and any behaviour that suggests otherwise is frowned upon.
There's this scene from a tv show where this housewife says that she stopped wearing masks because the other housewives disapprove her being the only one showing sensitivity to the radiation issue and she ends by saying that everyone wants to forget about radiation and be positive. I like that its not one-sided criticism with Ono's daughter-in-law developing radiation paranoia. I guess this is Sono Sion looking at both issues of turning a blind eye and overreaction to the radiation problem.
The heart of the movie is Ono, the old man. Jdorama fans will know him better as Abe Hiroshi's father in Going My Home. Unfortunately he passed away last week. In this movie, he moves very well, can still run and carry his wife on his back. Ono is the stubborn old man who refuses to move, dotes on his wife who has dementia and is concerned about the future of this son and daughter-in-law.
I can't really rate The Land of Hope as a must watch movie. The narrative is a bit lacking and slow but the acting is good and there a few beautiful moments in this movie. Its more of a social message movie instead of an exciting narrative about society. I'd still recommend it, its just good, not great.