25 February 2014 | rowerivers
A perfect world crumbling
Taki (Haru Kuroki) comes from northern Japan to Tokyo to join the Hirai household as a housekeeper. Back in the pre-war days the newly rich upper-middle classes built their own houses out in the suburbs, adopting Western style furnishings and fashions. And the Hirais built a very nice little house with a red roof. Taki quickly fits in and bonds quickly – too quickly – with Tokiko, the young wife and mother (Takako Matsu). She loves it so much there that she turns down an opportunity to marry into wealth. Husband (Takataro Kataoka) spends a lot of time at the office and traveling around for his toy company, which leaves plenty of time for Tokiko to pursue her own pleasures, like any decent housewife at that time. But it all changes when Itakura (Hidetaka Yoshioka), a young employee at husband's company, comes to visit. Tokiko is immediately attracted to him – he's handsome, cultured, artistic and a bit sickly – hitting all the right buttons for Tokiko. The feeling turns mutual as circumstances bring them together again and again. To Taki's dismay they begin an affair. This is where the film compares to Remains of the Day. Though the division between master and servant isn't as distinct in Japan, the housekeeper is still an employee, and the employee has to keep her own feelings to herself. Taki struggles with this as Tokiko becomes consumed and careless. Kuroki won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for her performance, which was a surprise to many. But Kuroki beautifully portrayed Taki's struggle as the perfect world began to crumble. It is a too common Japanese theme: put on a brave front and never show your struggles. But in this film it's nicely presented.