During the first forty minutes of drive my car (2021, Ryusuki Hamaguchi), I attached myself to those who think this film is too long and unnecessary. It seemed to me that I was dealing with a fraud, a huge disappointment, a pretentious work that had seduced pedantic critics, but I refused to confuse myself with those who consider cinema to be chewed up. The effort to keep going, again (but not always), was worth it. The substance of this film was enormous, although it was not easy to appreciate at first.
And it is that — okay — the imposed rhythm is particularly slow, there are many scenes that consist of a cold repetition of the texts of Tío Vania, the characters are for the most part laconic and hieratic; but, once you get into the story, and experience it—more as your own participation than as the reception of deep emotions in its continuation but very muffled in the momentary reactions—you end up finding the secret of the film, we discover that its At that moment, the soul is capable of sheltering the infinity of sorrows in which the characters settle —or the commendable gentleness of some—, which will mark the rhythm of our gaze for three hours, making us feel increasingly preoccupied with feelings.
The film brings together the essentials of Murakami’s homonymous story, it even reproduces textual sentences which are essential, but it modifies certain facts to give them a greater and more cinematic presence; and, on the other hand, it adds other elements, like all that contribution that the repetition of Chekhov’s work signifies, which involves the incorporation of secondary characters that complete a fresco of diverse humanity. Another difference is that, while the story is always about the protagonist’s relationship with his wife in retrospect, here we start by showing it, in a long first part that functions as a long prologue that ends—after her death. , from Oto— with the appearance of the credits; after giving up all temptation to use backtrack, which means that what they have experienced, which marks so much the present of the characters, is carried over to the latency that we observe in them, in their face and in their words, in the trace that we glimpse, like adhered to the new time which will touch them to live they do not know how. And there we find one of those correspondences that exist between this story and the characters of Uncle Vania, when he says: “I am 47 years old and if I had 13 years left to live, until I was 60, I would not know how to do it.”
After the credits, we resume the story when two years have passed since this misfortune. Kafuku moves to Hiroshima to prepare, as a director, a new performance of Uncle Vanya. But he can no longer play the main character in this play. “Chekhov is terrifying,” he says. “Saying his lines brings out our true selves. I can’t take it anymore.” And that’s because the Russian’s work is a sum of dissatisfaction, of feelings of having made mistakes, of reproaches; in short, a set of otherwise wasted lives. The weight under which lives this actor and director is that of the death of his wife: but, beyond the loss, he also regrets that this brutal interruption of his life has definitively fixed in him the incomprehension of who she was, of this woman he loved and for whom he felt loved, but whom he had caught having sexual adventures with actors in TV movies of which he was the screenwriter. She never told him, she never told him. reproached him, but on the last day she had told him that she wanted to talk to him when he got home from work. Kafuku did not dare to go home. His fear was very great that his words could cause a change in their relationship. He arrived as late as possible. When he did, Oto was lying on the ground, inco nscient, victim of a cerebrovascular accident.
Among the cast chosen for the play is Takatsuki, an actor whom Oto had introduced to her, and whom he suspects may have been one of those who had slept with her. This was submitted to foundry to be able to be close to the one who has lived so long with this woman he is still in love with. During rehearsals, this young actor leads to meetings with this man who may want to talk to him about the woman he loves. After a few weeks, they have a conversation in the car, in this Saab 900, which, by imposition of the producers of the work, is driven by Misaki, a young driver.r. Kafuku fears, but at the same time wishes, these interviews in which he could learn more about the double life that his wife was leading. But it is now he who speaks to Takatsuki: “We had a daughter who died at the age of 4. This marked the end of our happiness. Oto ceased acting. She slept for years. Then he started coming up with stories that became these hit scripts for television. These were born in her immediately after making love. They were the link that united us to forget our daughter. We needed each other to live. Our lives were very satisfying, at least for me. But Oto saw other men (looking at him, accusing him, or urging him to confess, or provide information, at least). Yet I never doubted his love for me. Oto naturally betrayed me by loving me. But he had a point in him that I couldn’t reach, where there was something dark.
And this is one of the fundamental themes of the film, that of the mystery that “the other” assumes for us, but also that which we are for ourselves. In this conversation in the car, in the dark of the night, in front of Misaki’s discreet ears, Takatsuki replies: “Even if you love someone, you can never see the totality of what is in their heart. Whoever tries it will only suffer. But, by trying hard, we should know our own heart. If you want to see others seriously, you have no choice but to look directly at yourself. But first, this young man who envies this man for having enjoyed Oto’s presence for more than twenty years, had clarified himself, had answered the question, and had told one of Oto’s stories, a which Kafuku also knew, but not finished. He tells her the rest, although he doesn’t know if it’s the end or if there is another event. It’s like acknowledging that Oto was with him and she probably had to continue creating this story by sleeping with another.
For her part, in the daily transfers, from the hotel to the theatre, which last an hour, Misaki opens up more and more. He tells this reserved man his traumatic story. A father she never met, a mother who abused her, whom she had to take to the station, so she could take the train to the nightclub where she worked. Naturally, Kafuku listens, on a cassette recorded by Oto, to the dialogues of Uncle Vanya, in which the protagonist’s words are missing, which he inserts. It is his method, by which he fully introduces himself into the work, similar to that which he imposes on actors, obliging them to simply read his text among all the others, in the first rehearsals, among a few companions who will speak different languages. ; and even one of the actresses speaks Korean Sign Language. In this text by Chekhov, we hear phrases that seem to allude to the story that the characters in the film live, like when Elena says: “You have to trust others, otherwise it’s impossible to live. Or Uncle Vania: “How much I suffer! If you knew how much I suffer!
The relationship between the director and the main actor is a relationship of partially deferred tension, of mutual vigilance. Kafuku gets the chance to go after him, but he doesn’t; just maybe he likes the harsh observations he sometimes makes to her with impartiality. Takatsuki feels strange in the role of Uncle Vanya, he knows he is too young for him. He is afraid of doing it wrong and that the public will notice it. This is what he says to the person who, surprisingly, entrusted him with this role in the work. Kafuku replies, “The text asks you questions, if you listen to it and answer it, the same will happen to you.”
Finally, in full rehearsal, the young actor is arrested by the police. In a fight, he killed a man. His violent impulse brought him there before those who photograph him without asking his permission. The theater management offers Kafuku to take on the character of Uncle Vania. But he resists, he still does not feel ready, for the pain of having to live this role which upsets him so much. However, faced with the alternative of canceling the work, he wants to think about it. You have two days. He and Misaki embark on a long and instructive journey to where his mother died. There, in front of where her house was, she confesses: “I killed my mother. My mother was inside the house when the landslide. I don’t know why I didn’t ask for help, why I didn’t save her. I hated her, but that wasn’t the only feeling I had for her.” And he replies, “If I was your father, I’d tell you it’s not your fault. hurt. But you killed your mother and I killed my wife.” “Yes,” she replies, who now thinks of her mother in a different way than when she was overwhelmed by her: “I don’t know if my mother had a mental illness or if she was actually acting so that I wouldn’t Don’t be abandoning her. Becoming Sachi (in the persona of a sweet eight-year-old girl) helped shield her from her terrible reality. And he, in the hour of all truths, expels this one: “I pretended nothing was happening. I didn’t stop to listen to myself. I would love to see her, and if I did, I would yell at her, insult her for constantly cheating on me.” I want her to come back, to live, I want to talk to her again. And both end in a deep and prolonged embrace that anticipates a possible happy ending, which is felt in the minimalism of the signs that the camera leaves us in the last sequence.
Previously, we witnessed the end of the performance of Uncle Vanya, which Kafuku was able to bear, in these words which concern him so much, those very moving ones of Sonia, the niece, played here by the young mute Korean: “What are you going to do to her. We have to live. We will live, Uncle Vanya. We will spend a succession of long days, long evenings. We will patiently endure the trials that fate sends us. We will work tirelessly for others, now and also in old age. When the time comes, we will die resigned. And there, on the other side of the grave, we will tell him that we have suffered, that we have cried, that we have suffered bitterness. God will have mercy on us. And then, uncle, we will experience this marvel, this dream life. Joy will come to us. And with a smile on our lips, we will think back with emotion to our current misfortunes. And, finally… we will rest. I have Faith”. @mondial