108 Knitted Male Genitals in Flame-- Review of Japanese film Close-Knit
This is a story on transgender. The 11-year-old Tomo, living with her negligent mom before, finds refuge with her uncle Makio. But Makio now has a fiancé, Rinko, who is a nurse and a transgender woman. Although Tomo finds this future aunt different, Rinko does all she can to make the girl feel at ease, such as preparing food, doing housework, braiding hair for her and playing games with her. Rinko is tender and considerate, and the three live together like a family. However, this combination is surrounded by the prejudice of others: out of rage, Tomo sprays detergent to the classmate’s mother who offers to “rescue” Tomo from the “freak”, while the amiable Rinko teaches her how to knit — Rinko’s preferred method of stress relief. Then, the three knit 108 male genitals together, symbolizing the 108 defilements in Buddhism and burn them all in the end.
This scene is quite breathtaking – the 108 knitted male genitals of different sizes and colors become fragments in blaze and rise up above the flames, indicating the brand new life is coming. Another impressive shot is the last scene when Tomo opens the gift from Rinko, a pair of knitted breasts shows up… nice and warm. The motif of sex is presented through such “sex props”, novel and appropriate, and fully displays director’s unique ingenuity.
If we use a term to describe the heroine’s identity, it is called Gender Identity Disorder, which means the assigned sex and gender do not match the person's gender identity. In this case, the person is a normal male or female, biologically speaking, and he or she is clear about his or her gender as well. However, he or she believes he or she is the opposite gender in sex consciousness, so he or she yearns for living as the opposite gender. Biological gender is defined by sexual organs, while psychological sex is determined by brains.
It is because of the mismatch of “physical gender” and “spiritual gender” that so many people like Rinko are living in the world. The film also depicts the boy classmate of Tomo: he loves playing football, and hopes he could have breasts… Apparently, Gender Identity Disorder is not some kind of exception; instead, it is more common than we imagined. The deep-rooted prejudice in the society may push them into darkness forever. It is not astonishing that the boy nearly kills himself when his mother is being so stubborn and discriminate. In the contrary, Rinko’s mother is quite open-minded: when Rinko was a boy, he, in tears, told his mother that he wanted a pair of breasts, just like a woman; stunned at first, his mother said to him softly: “Sure. You are a girl.” Then she knitted a pair of breasts for him. Bred in such a relationship, Rinko becomes a gentle nurse when she grows up, without any hostility towards others and the world.
One’s attitude to transgender reflects his or her attitude towards human nature. Thanks to those liberal people like Rinko’s mother, Rinko grows up into a kind and humble person. The transgender in the film is such a charming and sweet woman, except for the relatively coarse voice and big hands, she has nothing different from a woman. In particular, her thoughtfulness for the elderly and her fiancé, as well as her care for the kid, are so sincere and delicate, full of femininity.
It is a warm story happening between “an abandoned kid” and “a transgender”. After one and another trivial yet touching details, they come closer and warm each other; the bright side of human nature glistens on them. The beautiful life of the woman and the girl, inspires us to ponder on the physical and social gender of people, family and ties of blood, etc. The movie has won the Teddy Special Jury Award, which it truly deserved.
According to the screenwriter and director Naoko Ogigami, she has gained inspiration from a piece of news, which introduced a mother whose son chose to become a woman. Naoko Ogigami found it intriguing and got in touch with the mother, then she met with the happy and optimistic transgender mother. The meeting led Naoko Ogigami into muse; she kept asking herself: “Do you have no prejudices at all?” After all the preparation in mind, she started the filming, and Close-knit is therefore born. The story behind the scene reminded me of the “inspiring” rule of many masterpieces, such as the recently-released Hacksaw Ridge, which is also based on a true story. From a true story to an artistic narration, the slogan of “derived from life and larger than life” can be easily spoken out, but its alignment with ideology and mechanism are hard to be fulfilled. About how to transfer from life to arts, we have much to deliberate and a long way to go.