Japan 2016, 120 mins
Director: Kōji Fukada

Director’s Statement
This film is linked to one of my previous films, Hospitalité, which came out in 2010. They’re like two sides of the same coin.

Initially, Hospitalité was only supposed to be a pilot before shooting Harmonium. The tone of Hospitalité is that of a comedy, while Harmonium can be described as a tragedy. However, like a coin whose two sides complete each other, these two films present an identical, banal and extremely universal theme: family.

By nature, humans are living beings, all carrying a loneliness they are powerless to defeat. What I wish to describe here is a family in which each member becomes aware of this state but is obliged to live with other people, in spite of it all. This is inevitable.

I’m tired of all of these Japanese films idealising family ties.

By continuing to relay this outdated and stereotypical image of an ‘ideal family’, we deny the various other ‘family types’ that actually exist. I wish to describe an ‘already-collapsed family’ because looking at the collapse of a family as a tragedy is a way of idealising what it could have been.

Harmonium asks the question of the familial system. It must shake things up, show that original loneliness, and bring out the bonds that nevertheless endure. I think my 21st century ‘family portrait’ will question the spectator – in this society where people are beginning to realise that our conception of the family, which had protected us, while smothering us at the same time, was nothing more than an illusory construction.

Interview with Kōji Fukada

The theme of family is at the centre of Harmonium . What was your idea at the outset?

For me, family is an absurdity. A human being – who is an individual entity – meets someone, starts a relationship, becomes a parent, has kids, and lives with people as if it were the most natural thing in the world. But, if you think about it, it’s very strange. Why live with other people? Every population creates countries and believes in certain gods but, despite everything, they all end up fighting over some football score. Man lives in society by bringing people together that do not understand one another. The smallest version of this is a family. Tadanobu Asano plays Yasaka, an old friend of Toshio’s, the head of the family. Yasaka turns out to be more and more frightening.

How did you come up with this character?

Yasaka is an example of a certain violence that can irrationally develop in the world. I started thinking about this film in 2007. At first, I imagined that the arrival of a violent intruder might be the starting point for a couple’s reflection on their relationship. Then I began asking myself what exactly violence was. Basically, violence is an inexplicable absurdity. Like with a natural disaster, where the causes are never a question of good or evil, criminals can never precisely explain the motives of their crime at the moment they commit it. I think we live in a certain mundane ambiguity, far from the concept of Good and Evil. I don’t see Yasaka as a symbol of evil. He is neither good nor bad. I want to show that the good or evil in all of us is the result of our relationship to others.

How do you work with actors? Do you have a particular relationship to Kanji Furutachi, who plays the role of Toshio?

Ultimately, I think an actor has a form of expression that is theirs and theirs alone. This expression is what interests me, and it’s what I wish to highlight in my films. This is cinema’s strength. I have worked regularly with Kanji Furutachi since a short film I made with him in 2008. He’s a friend and I often talk to him about cinema and acting styles. I got a lot out of our discussions for this film, too. He’s an exceptional actor who is always seeking to play his character as realistically as possible.

The tone of Harmonium is darker than your previous films, and closer to a psychological thriller.

Portraying people is an exercise I would describe as being similar to peering over the edge of the abyss and observing its depths. And, in order to observe these depths, you need to get close to the edge, even if it means falling in. In other words, you need to come close to the dark side of the people’s hearts without falling in. To do this, you need to be aware of just how far you can go. That’s why, in this film, I hope to get as close to the brink as possible with the spectator. That’s why the original title of this film in Japanese means ‘on the brink’. At first, I didn’t think I was making a happy film or a dark film. But, compared to my previous ones, this film is one step closer to the depths of the soul.

To what extent is this film realistic? Do you have any particular sources of inspiration?

For me, naturalism and realism are two different things. Acting requires something natural, but natural acting doesn’t lead to cinematic realism. Cinema aspires to a type of truth and realism that can take on many different forms. In their films, René Clair, Robert Bresson or the Dardenne Brothers are all looking for different forms of realism. I feel very close to Rohmer’s methods. He would talk to actors and then build a very precise script. With this script, the actors would develop an acting style that was entirely their own. Rohmer was a genius of story construction, and he’d use this very rigid script to then direct his actors. He doesn’t explain character psychology, but allows us to imagine it with this precise structure, where actors must create their own space in every scene. I think this is how the actor gives the spectator the time to develop his/her own imagination. That’s the secret of modern realism.

Film Movement production notes

Directed by: Kōji Fukada
©: Fuchi Ni Tatsu Film Partners, Comme des Cinémas
Production Companies: Comme des Cinémas, Nagoya Broadcasting Network
In co-production with: MAM Film, Aeon Entertainment, Elephant House, Asahi Shimbun Company, MAM
With the participation of: L’aide aux cinémas du monde
Executive production: Mountaingate Production, Comme des Cinémas
Co-producers: Nagoya Broadcasting Network, Comme des Cinémas, MAM Film, Aeon Entertainment, Elephant House, MAM, Asahi Shimbun Company
With the participation of: L’aide aux cinémas du monde, Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animée, Ministère des Affaires étrangères et du Développement international, Institut Français
International Sales: MK2 Films
Producers: Hiroshi Niimura, Masa Sawada
Line Producer Japan: Toyama Toyama
Associate Producers: Koichiro Fukushima, Yoshito Oyama, Kōji Fukada, Kazumasa Yonemitsu
Production Manager: You Minami
Unit Manager: Kaoru Mimura
Post-production Supervisor: Laurent Harjani
1st Assistant Director: Saku Yamato
Written by: Kōji Fukada
Director of Photography: Kenichi Negishi
Chief Lighting Technician: Thomas Takamura
Film Editor: Kōji Fukada
Consultant Film Editor: Julia Gregory
Digital Post-production: Mikros Image
Art Director: Kensuke Suzuki
Costumes: Murashima Keiko
Make-up: Miwako Sugahara
Hairdresser: Miwako Sugahara
Music/Original Music Composed by: Hiroyuki Onogawa
Music Supervisor: Masayoshi Okawa
Sound Recordist: Junji Yoshikata
Sound Mixer: Olivier Goinard
Sound Editor: Junji Yoshikata

Tadanobu Asano (Yasaka)
Mariko Tsutsui (Akie)
Taiga (Takashi)
Momone Shinokawa (young Hotaru)
Kana Mahiro (adult Hotaru)
Kanji Furutachi (Toshio)
Takahiro Miura (Atusi)

Japan-France 2016©
120 mins

Hospitalité (Kantai)
Fri 1 Sep 18:20; Thu 14 Sep 20:40
Au revoir l’été (Hotori no Sakuko)
Mon 4 Sep 20:35; Mon 2 Oct 17:55
Harmonium (Fuchi ni Tatsu)
Wed 6 Sep 20:30; Sun 1 Oct 18:20
Love Life (Rabu raifu)
From Fri 15 Sep

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