Sunday, January 11, 2009

This World of Ours (Ryo Nakajima, 2007)

Ryo Nakajima's This World of Ours (2007).

I'm not sure what to think or feel about Ryo Nakajima's debut feature This World of Ours as it takes adolescence to such extremes that, to me, it becomes hard to relate to. It deals with the crushed hopes and dreams of some Japanese teenagers who struggle with their own and society's expectations of their futures. They feel bored with school, they want to make it on their own, is conforming and fitting in really the only way to success? Is it impossible for someone of common stature to really change or have an impact on society? This and the constant berating from teachers and nagging or indifferent parents and rejection from potential employers results in bullying, manipulating, gang rape and ultimately murder and terrorism. And that is why Nakajima almost loses me.

From all reports in media at least, the situation in Japan when it comes to the pressure to succeed that is placed on teenagers is much more extreme than here in Sweden, but having faced all these same problems of dropping out of school, being unsuccessful in finding a job for years and spending a lot of time thinking about what it is that I really want and how far one is willing to go to fit into society, gang rape and murder still never became parts of my life.

The things that redeem the film for me are the strong performances from the actors and that Nakajima doesn't spare his characters at all, there really is no romanticizing of the events in the film, all the characters have to face the cold, hard world and what they make of it is up to them. This World of Ours have been compared to Shunji Iwai's All About Lily Chou Chou (2001) on more than one occasion but the things written above makes me feel that Nakajima is a much more honest and talented filmmaker and, to me, his film is far, far superior to Iwai's.

I don't know what it is that Nakajima, a former hikikomori who started writing the script when he was 19 and spent the next four years making it, wants to say with the film. Does he just want to shed light on the situation, show how dark the world can get for young people who doesn't know how to deal with the pressure and expectations put upon them by society. Does he want them to compromise since the world won't change, get a job and fit in. My take, and probably the simplest one, comes from the most sensible character in the film. He says that, to him, death is not being able to live life your way but he also asks what's wrong with hard work. He has chosen to live life the way he wants to, travelling and making art, and he takes jobs in between to be able to do it. Maybe that is the best way to change the world for yourself. Completely giving up on your dreams and get a salary-man job is one way to fit in, but maybe it's possible to conform your dreams to fit into the frames of society and work hard to achieve them.

Ryo, the school bully in This World of Ours.

No matter what you believe in This World of Ours will make you feel something, it might be anger, disgust, despair or hope, there is no denying that it is a strong film with strong performances from someone who I hope will be making a lot more films in the future.


1minutefilmreview said...

Nice write-up.

Executive Koala said...

Thanks! I regret I didn't mention Chikuma Yasutomo's Now, I from 2007 in the post as it deals with the same thing and was made in a similar way. Yasutomo made the film himself with friends using a dv camera. It's about a young hikikomori whose mother gets him a job at a friend's workplace to get him to go out. It doesn't have any of the excess that is in This World Of Ours and that made me at least feel detached from the film.