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Released 22 June 2012
Director Sion Sono

Shota Sometani, Fumi Nikaido, Tetsu Watanabe, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Megumi Kagurazaka, Ken Mitsuishi, Makiko Watanabe
Writer(s) Sion Sono

Haruo Umekawa, Masashi Yamazaki
Origin Japan
Running Time 129 minutes
Genre Drama
Rating TBC

After the quake.

This Japanese drama based on a manga of the same name by Minoru Furuya was in pre-production when a tsunami struck eastern Japan in March of 2011. Rather than delay filming, director Sion Sono amended the story and shot the film in the midst of a devastated Ibaraki prefecture. This debris strewn urban wasteland – with houses levelled to their foundations and streets torn up – becomes a powerful motif in Himizu, and seems like it was always apart of the story rather than a last minute addition.

Indeed the story of fifteen-year-old protagonist Sumida, who is left scraping a living from the family boat-hire business in the wake of the disaster, becomes a powerful metaphor for a fractured Japanese society. Sumida struggles to maintain his sanity amid beatings form his alcoholic father, an absent and indifferent mother, and thoughts of suicide. The oppressive atmosphere of Himizu combined with the use of a single location for most of the action gives the film an almost post-apocalyptic edge.

As the action rolls on and Sumida sinks further into himself, the whole world seems to echo this collapse. Violence is a constant presence, shattering its way through the façade of domestic normality in a way that is genuinely shocking.

Himizu is a fantastic and harrowing portrait of a society struggling (and often failing) to repair itself in the wake of such a massive disaster. However it is let down slightly by an overlong running time, and a slow-burning, episodic narrative which struggles to introduce too many loose plot threads from its source material, as well as many of its own.

But the real beauty of Himizu isn’t its story, but its evocative cinematography. Each shot is calculated and has something to say, down to the details of the set dressings or the figures lingering in the background. Director Sono has created a work of incredible artistic beauty on an obviously low budget. The eerie dream sequences in tsunami ruined streets which appear throughout are truly haunting and memorable. Himizu may be slightly uneven overall, but is nonetheless impressive.

- Bernard O’Rourke