The screen fades, titles ascent and there seems as if a page is still left to be written and acted out. A complete incompleteness is its best description and both a surge of sadness and ambivalence weighs you down as you realize the film is over.
This was a perfection in itself. Kazuya Shiraishi creates a gripping cinematic adaptation of Mahokaru Numata’s novel. The narrative follows Jinji (Sadao Abe) an old and uncouth construction worker who dotes on his younger and attractive however cruel girlfriend Towako (Yu Aoi). Trapped in a world where she desires and longs for her previous partner and engaging in a scandalous affair with a married man, Towako treats Jinji heartlessly and coldly, tormenting him with emotional abuse each day. One is only waiting for the glass to crack. That comes when Towako’s ex-partner is revealed by police to have been missing for 5 years.
Slow, suspenseful, uncomfortable. There was definitely something uncomfortable, a sickening feeling that crawls through your nerves as the scenes play out. Perhaps the “unidentifiable” nature of characters’ motivations and plans and of this extreme take on human nature or perhaps the juxtaposition of love and violence, of vulnerability and strength.
Birds Without Names is an equally tragic yet beautiful story that became something much more deeper and lovelier than expected… It inverses expectations on love, criminality and perhaps depicts an essential sadness to human life.
The film’s harsh and raw nature did not require overly stylistic compositions to argue its weight. With simplistic shots and editing, a reduced soundtrack and brilliant acting, the engaging and strong narrative was its strength. Yet there were missed beats, a rushed ending and odd pacing. It seemed as if the last 15 minutes of the film held the entire weight of the film, not just linking the storylines but squeezing in essential characterisation that had not been depicted previously.
It was lovely, it was interesting, it was gruelling and intense.
A blank page is the best way to describe it. Whatever Kazuya Shiraishi left us with, was a search for more. You can’t help but feel empty as the credits roll on.
Birds Without Names is screening at the 2018 Japanese Film Festival touring nationally.