27 December 2019 | junshiwilda
👍 A excellent movie you will never believe it's Japanese.
I just watched Koji Fukuda's Harmonium, and it was excellent. I actually watched this movie in a pretty low quality computer screen on a free movie streaming site, as I frankly had very low expectations for this movie. If you are familiar with Japanese cinema, you will know that it is kind of one big joke. Every single Japanese movie ever made is essentially a cliche cookie cutter BS made for Japanese middle aged women who have a very low intellect. If you told me to tell you the most Oscar worthy performance by Japanese actors I will most likely tell you that you are absurd. But Harmonium really "subverted my expectations", giving me a completely new experience I never got from a film directed by a Japanese national. This is hands down the very best Japanese movie I ever saw, and perhaps one of the best movies I saw this year.
If there is one big difference between all the Japanese films and Harmonium, it is the quality of the performances. Of course Tadanobu Asano as Kusano, the Ex convict who essentially serves as a key character, did a excellent job as this mysterious man. Every scene he is in gives you a sense of awkwardness and tension, and you will see a performance you never saw in a Japanese movie. The Kusano character is a vital spice of the plot in this movie, and Asano truly delivers. To be frank there was not a single bad performance in this movie, and the best part was that these actors gave such real performances. Kanji Furutachi, as the man who is responsible for his family shattering into pieces give such deep performance of a man who is regretful and accepting of his fate, making his performance one of the most underrated performances in this movie. But giving the best performance along with Tadanobu Asano will be Marico Tsutsui, who is just brilliant in this movie. Her performance as the "victim" of the punishment her husband has to receive (which I will come to later) is so real, and her transition from a somewhat innocent woman to a mentally unstable mother who has to face the same fate as her husband is simply a master work. She did recieve acclaim from critics in Japan, but I think her performance really deserved international acclaim. It is really upsetting that in a world where Ana de Armas scores a Golden Globe nomination for a very mediocre performance in "Knives Out", these great performances get over looked while mediocrity gets overly praised. I am definitely willing to watch "A girl missing", which also is directed by Koji Fukada and also stars Marico Tsutsui. The performances by the three leads are essentially what creates the tension and awkwardness and also the weirdness the film has unlike all the other Japanese films that just feels like the actors are reading off scripts.
As I mentioned earlier in this review, the film has such a sense of "real ness". The script is crafted with such real struggles and real characters, and real struggles a family might face. This is made better because of the fantastic performances from the lead actors, and a result is a movie that grips from its very real plot, and it is because of this cleverly crafted script that made this movie very unforgettable to me. From this movie I knew instantly that Koji Fukada was a master screen writer who deserved more recognition than he had now. His genius is evident from the character Kusano (played brilliantly by Tadanobu Asano), where he proves that you can accomplish complexity with ambiguity. The Kusano character is a character written with no back story whatsoever, which is very vital to writing a complex character. His motives in the story is very ambiguous and whether or not he actually intended to destroy the family is very ambiguous. Yet, Kusano is such a complex character with many symbolisms packed in his character and this mysterious character shows a lot of traits along the movie making him a very complex character. This is a character written and executed fabulously, and also a representation of this director's genius.
The themes in this film is very real and convicting to us, as the audience, and the theme of "punishment" is represented throughout the film. The Kusano character (which I keep on emphasizing) and also the destruction of the family really represents the inevitable fate a person has to face. Toshio (Kanji Furutachi) lived a life that may have seemed to make him divert his punishment he had to face, and he faces a terrifying result after Kusano comes to his house, leaving a great scar on the family and eventually leading to the family getting destroyed to bits. His wife (Marico Tsutsui) represents people unaccepting of their fate, as she gets mentally unstable as her husband talks about punishment (I will not spoil this scene), her unacceptance eventually leads to the brilliant ending. This was such a brilliant symbolism, and I was personally convicted by this theme of eventual punishment and I will bet you will too. Because the results of the "punishment" is very real, you surly will be horrified.
From a technical view point this film was very well done. The cinematography made a very dark atmosphere fit for the movie's tone, and the sound design was very detailed making the movie very unsettling. There were many beautiful shots along the way, with the river sequences being the standout. Though I don't have anything to criticize, I will say I really didn't get the point of the illusion sequences of Marico Tsutsui's character which happens towards the end of the film, and I frankly didn't know why that triggered what happened next (which I will not spoil). But this probably is because of my lack of analysis since by that point in the movie I was really pulled in, I didn't have the capacity to catch every single detail. I probably will re watch this movie so I can have a complete analysis of this movie, and I definitely think this is one of these movies that require deep analysis from its various symbolisms and themes.
Overall Harmonium was a excellent movie both written and executed with real-ness,which a lot of Japanese films lack. This is a significant upgrade from all the Japanese movies I watched featuring overrated actors reading off scripts. This is the best Japanese movie ever made, and one of the best movies I have ever seen. I will give this one a 9/10 for now, though it may turn into a 10/10 when I rewatch it next time. Regardless of my rating, this is a must watch.