13 December 2004 | LGwriter49
Time past, life wasted
Bright Future, another recent dark film from the great Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, focuses on working class folks whose future is anything but bright. The irony of the title is pounded home in scene after scene. Yuji and Mamoru, friends in their 20s who work at the same boring job in the same dull warehouse, are both frustrated with their lives. But there is a big difference.
While Mamoru looks around carefully and gives Yuji knowing glances, and tells Yuji when to Wait and when to Go Ahead (capital letters used on purpose), Yuji is content to live in his dreams in which, he says in a voice-over, he sees himself as having a bright future. Mamoru has a pet poisonous jellyfish, which he bequeaths to Yuji when something terrible happens and Mamoru lands in prison.
Their boss, a man of 55, is just as frustrated with his boring existence as his two workers, and Mamoru's father is, as well, a man who labors at a thankless job that keeps him confined to a small space; he fixes broken appliances in a salvage shop.
When the jellyfish escapes from Yuji, he panics, then relaxes when he realizes that it is, in essence, following him wherever he goes. Kurosawa always fuses fantasy with reality in his films and this one is no exception. Although an obvious symbol for escape from a humdrum existence, the jellyfish turns out to be something more than that as well. This is brought home later in the film when we see a flotilla of the things moving out to sea in the Tokyo canal...
KK, as I like to call him--to distinguish him from Akira Kurosawa--makes films like no one else today. It's easy and at the same time intriguing to read into his films more than what we see and chances are that the added meanings we find are right. I think we know this because his films resonate long after leaving the theater; the layers of meaning we find in them continue to make themselves apparent without much effort at all.
Bright Future is a film about significantly more than people who spend their time, their lives in futile activity. It's about whether or not we think about how to live our lives, about whether we value the time that we have, or how we value it, if we do at all. It's about how we try to move beyond what we have and how that usually fails. It's a sad film but one that upon reflection makes us think that maybe there is, after all, a chance for a bright future. Or maybe not.