After the Storm, Hirokazu Koreeda’s film & life philosophy
Life is unchanged, and my heart still wanders around. In the film After the Storm, the audience can easily find themselves in the protagonist’s world and the story is linked up by the scenes one after another: a middle-aged man’s abjection, his relation with the family members, endless confusion about money, peeking other people’s life, his ex-wife’s romantic relationship, the time with his son in a stormy summer night, recalling his late father, his constant ambition to become a novelist… the gambling-like dramatic conflicts are concealed in the most banal life details – director Hirokazu Koreeda’s film & life philosophy.
In his world of films, dramatic contradictions, plot conflicts are far less important than characters’ images and innermost feelings. Watching Hirokazu Koreeda’s works, you will always be, somehow moved by those humble figures who stick to their original dreams even in distress. His creations are pebbles quietly lying under the clean water, and through the sparkling ripples, you can see the nature of life, ups and downs of emotions and hopes for the future.
If we are perplexed by some feelings or people in today’s urban life, Hirokazu Koreeda’s films, like fables, will direct you to the meaning, values and cost of life through life itself. In After the Storm, the hero Ryota, played by Hiroshi Abe, dwelling on his past glory as a prize-winning author, wastes the money he makes as a private detective on gambling and can barely meet ends and pay child support. After the death of his father, his aging mother and ex-wife seem to be moving on with their life. Ryota gets in touch with the family which has little trust in him, attempting to take back control of his existence and to find a lasting place in the life of his young son. In a stormy summer night, sheltered at his mother's home where she has spent 40 years living, on the slide where he once played with his father, life renders this family which is immersed in distrust some new hope. Although at the end of the story, their life is not changed much, the little warmth rising from their hearts reignite their hope for life. The director is able to deliver the universality of humanity through storytelling in film language, yet leaving no traces, but gradually conquering audience’s hearts.
Hirokazu Koreeda said: “What is universality? The things made based on what the world needs cannot be universally applied to the world itself.” It is the best practice to pay attention to your inner experiences and emotions, and profoundly explore them to achieve certain universality, which is the very attitude Hirokazu Koreeda adopts to discuss the relationship among self, cinema and the world. Due to such an understanding, the visage of his films is as commonly seen as people walking on streets; and thanks to that, only from the everyday life can we precisely refine the richest emotions of characters in films. So when watching After the Storm, I could not stop tears from blurring my eyes and streaming down my cheeks.
In the world of images of After the Storm, Hirokazu Koreeda didn’t focus on scheming the special and non-daily plots, but contrasted characters’ inner world in times of adversity by the most day-to-day shots and lines. The director tried to present Ryota in his naturalist living status, silently pushing his camera more and more closely to Ryota, and deceiving the audience to mistake it as a documentary. When the tension of fictive plots is hidden by the simple and unadorned life, a strong sense of engagement will rise among the audience, thus a unique watching experience is produced. This is why Hirokazu Koreeda’s productions are so appealing and touching.
The director is good at using the utmost plain technique to uncover the hideousness of humans, compare different attitudes towards life and portray the living environments, while bringing a tender slight of living philosophy at the ending. He once said: “The reason why human beings are human beings is that, besides success, they will also remember failures, and accumulate a mature culture paradigm from the failures. If forgetting the lessons too soon, humans will become animals. That is the most powerful yet most vulgar violence imposed by media and politics.” After the Storm is asking the audience to bear in mind the possible lessons and crisis middle-aged men might encounter, and the attitude to face them. This is the very film philosophy of director Hirokazu Koreeda.