Harmonium

Toshio hires Yasaka to work in his workshop. But then this old acquaintance, who has just been released from prison, begins to meddle in Toshio’s family life…

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  • ★★★½ review by preston on Letterboxd

    "A bit weird, right?"; "I couldn't really say". Tadanobu Asano is weird, a sallow, impeccably formal figure in dress shirt or snow-white overalls - taken off to reveal a blood-red top at a critical moment - hovering first in the background of frames ("You're putting us off," says the mother, embarrassed) then in the background of the story. Guilt leads to smothering, God quietly drops out of the picture, a victim's only power is to be a victim, slapping her own face by way of epiphany. The staging can be clumsy, especially in the second half (the young man is a contrivance, seemingly oblivious to the effect all his plot exposition is having), but the undercurrents keep it going and the sadness, in the end - after the harmonium tries and fails to play titular deus ex machina - is profound.

  • ★★★★½ review by dizzy4111 on Letterboxd

    A study of the sins of the father that rivals any film so far this year. It's bleak as hell but consistently gripping. A thriller by way of Kore-eda is an admittedly reductive way to put it but it's a thought that kept entering my mind throughout.

  • ★★★★ review by thebestzest on Letterboxd

    This film really made me appreciate silence, and simplicity in film. The Western tradition always seems to lean towards packing as much into a frame as possible, and to get as much coverage as possible. But Asian cinema always seems to make such good use of silence, emptiness, and staging everything in a single frame rather than getting singles of everyone.

    Fukada also made a lot of risky moves in this film, while I won't spoil anything I will say that I was constantly muttering 'No way' and 'As if' under my breath for the duration of the film.

    The pacing was fantastic, and emotionally this was one of the more engaging films I've seen at MIFF 2016 so far.

  • ★★★½ review by Shikhar Verma on Letterboxd

    Koji Fukada's Harmonium works almost entirely on the uncertainties that this slow-paced familial drama presents. While calm and subtle in its compositions, the film plays along a very disturbing path and before you know it, you are slapping yourself twice, wishing to wake up to a better reality. One that has better consequences and one that doesn't punish you for past mistakes.

  • ★★★★ review by Ian Flick on Letterboxd

    Admittedly, the brooding quality of repression as presented here is a quality that I am drawn to. A rather typical familial drama punctured and the slowly cut away by the razor that is Asano's performance of Yasaka. Bubbling sexuality overflows into anger and sadness, drowning the central family in resignation. Only able to survive by acknowledging their fate as punishment. I'm probably a little more enamored with it then some of the other reviews I've read, simply due to the gentle touch that Fukada brings to the whole proceedings - not dissimilar to that of a director like Koreeda - though with all together more arthouse-leanings than the aforementioned director. He manages to make the darker elements of the film feel less oppressive or encompassing than some of his contemporaries while still managing to have the impact of the bleaker moments retain their power.

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