If my memory doesn’t trick me, then this is a premier for me: a slow film set in Japan. Not really made by a Japanese filmmaker, but this matters little. I was, in fact, surprised when I read that Gonzales-Rubio, whose film Alamar I reviewed earlier this month, contributed to the NARAtive Film Festival Project, which Naomi Kawase initiated.
Rubio’s documentary Inori (2012) is set in the surroundings of Nara, east of Osaka. It is one of those cinematic works that brings everything that makes a slow film a slow film together. The documentary follows the lives of a few remaining inhabitants of the area. Elderly people who are dwelling on their memories of the past.
Inori is set in a striking environment. It’s one of those landscapes that by definition evoke slowness. You don’t have to do much as a filmmaker anymore. You only need to set up the camera, let it run, and let the viewer dive into a different world.
I found it striking to hear how the area used to look like, and how the people react to the transformation. It is perhaps the complete opposite of the viewer’s perception. Most definitely, it is in stark contrast to my own perception. The area used to be lively, full of children and young people. But the economy crumbled. The younger generation moved away to big cities where they could find work. Today, the area is empty and quite literally slow. I didn’t get the feeling that people liked it. And this is where the urban spectator comes in. Or rather, the fed-up urban spectator. Fed up of speed, of abundance, wishing to have a slightly calmer life. I would die for a quite surrounding like this!
But I’m only the spectator, and not the inhabitant whose surroundings have entirely changed their faces. It’s like watching a village die. In general, death has a certain omnipresence in the documentary. The change of the village itself, the emptiness of it, tells one of the many stories of death in Inori. However, there is also the presence of graves. There is this wonderfully metaphorical shot. The camera is tilted right to the top of trees, then slowly tilts down to reveal a grave; Heaven and Earth, connected via a simple but effective camera movement.
There is talk about paradise and different worlds. I’m aware that people speak of these things in connection to the afterlife. But if you hear them talking, it almost seems as if they also talk about Nara before it became a near-dead area. There is this recurring sense of ambiguity in Inori. And yet, if I wasn’t writing a blog post on it, I wouldn’t pose any questions. It is a film you can simply follow and go where it might take you. It reminds me of floating on water, floating with the current. No effort at all, just let your mind be taken to a wonderful Japanese area, and be introduced to some interesting people, who all share their stories with us.