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 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.

  • ★★★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.

  • ★★★★ 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.

  • ★★★★ review by Metin Seven on Letterboxd

    Wow, I need counseling after viewing Harmonium. What an intense drama.

    When an old friend is released from prison, a metal craftsman decides to give him a job at his workshop and a place to sleep at his home, to the surprise of the craftsman's wife. Soon, the mutual relations start to change.

    The performances in Harmonium are very convincing, the story is original, and the subtle, modest film style makes it all the more impressive, as if you're watching the unfolding of real lives.

    A rare gem. I had a hard time accepting the end, but it completed the emotional development of Harmonium.

  • ★★★½ review by Ryan Swen on Letterboxd

    "Much of what tantalizes about the seemingly straightforward drama Harmonium is what makes it so difficult to describe. It is nominally a domestic drama, centering on a family whose normal middle-class existence as owners of a metal workshop is slowly, heartbreakingly upended by the arrival of Toshio’s old friend Yasaka (Tadanobu Asano). However, it holds more than a tinge of the thriller to it as well, and while the film never truly leaves its dramatic vein, writer-director Kôji Fukada’s skill is such that it moves around within this zone, assuming the quotidian and the suspenseful with shocking ease."

    Reviewed for The Film Stage.

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