Journey to the Shore
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Starring Eri Fukatsu, Tadanobu Asano, Yu Aoi, Akira Emoto and Masao Komatsu
Mizuki’s husband Yusuke went missing for 3 years. He suddenly comes back home one day and asks Mizuki to go on a trip with him. Their trip consists of visiting the people that helped Yusuke on his previous travel. While travelling together, Misuki sees, touches and feels what Yusuke did for those 3 years.
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★★★★★ review by Mike Thorn on Letterboxd
Kurosawa's craft is note-by-note perfect; the film crept up on me and took hold before I could even register what it was doing.
★★★½ review by Keaton B on Letterboxd
Wasn't Kurosawa supposed to be a horror directer...? Maybe I haven't seen the right films. Actually, this is only my third one.
There are some eerie moments in the film, and there's an undercurrent of darkness, but I wouldn't classify this as horror.
It's more like a metaphysical love story about loss and communication, at times touching but at other times rather banal. It definitely kept my interest though. But maybe since I was expecting something like a genre horror film, it surprised me a little.
I should come back to this one after watching some other Kurosawa films.
★★★★★ review by Jacob on Letterboxd
For most of his life, my dad has had a fascination with the paranormal. I find the subject very interesting too, but I've never been willing to dive into it like him; we have shelves in our house filled with books on ghosts. One day, after I told him about a supposed ghost encounter my friend had, he explained to me what are speculated to be the three types of phenomena people interpret as ghosts: poltergeist activity, psychic imprints, and "real" ghosts. Though this movie only concerns the third, I'll describe all three because I think it's very interesting and hope you'll get a kick out of it. Fair warning: I'm paraphrasing something told to me about a year ago, so if something here seems inaccurate, blame me, not my dad. Also, since again this is just word-of-mouth, I have no sources, so take it with a grain of salt if you're so inclined.
1. Poltergeist activity, in which things fly around the house, fall and crash, shift unexpectedly, etc. According to my dad, poltergeists actually have nothing to do with any sort of spirit, whether or not they're the spirit of a dead person. Apparently, almost every proven instance of poltergeist activity has occurred in a household where a young teenager is being severely abused. Some people, apparently, have latent telepathic abilities, and when the emotional stress of abuse combines with the onset of puberty, these abilities go haywire, becoming the physical manifestation of the child's internal anguish.
2. Psychic imprints. If you see a woman descending your stairs every night, a soldier charging across a field at night, or some other sort of ghostly figure seemingly unaware of your presence, chances are you didn't see a "real" ghost. When someone is experiencing a moment which is profoundly emotionally charged, in rare cases they will leave a "psychic imprint" on the place where they were for a long time, an psychic record of a person who was once there. The woman descending the stairs isn't really there, even as a spirit; she's like a movie clip playing on loop for eternity.
3. Real ghosts. The spirits of those who have passed away are not really benevolent or malevolent. They are generally confused, being unaware that they are dead. They don't have a real sense of how much time has passed, and if they do seem hostile, it's probably because they think you're invading their house. Even then, however, ghosts aren't something to be afraid of; they lack any real destructive or harmful power. Ghosts, through proper means of communication, can be encouraged to go into the light and onto whatever lies beyond.
My dad has cited The Sixth Sense, Ghost, and Poltergeist as movies that get at least some elements of ghosts or ghost hunting "right," but from what he's told me, Journey to the Shore seems to be more profoundly in tune with the reality of ghosts than any other movie I've ever seen- except possibly the aforementioned Sixth Sense. I hadn't seen any Kiyoshi Kurosawa film later than Retribution before this, and I was amazed at the way he is able to flawlessly translate the austere and subtle terrors of Cure and Retribution into a film which treats the supernatural with such tenderness and comfort. Far from a horror movie, the ghosts in Shore are not malicious. They are simply souls who are unwilling to let go of the lives they once led.
Consider the title: Journey to the Shore. Shores and beaches have a long cinematic tradition as being representative of the end of things (The 400 Blows and The Seventh Seal come to mind) and the journey in the film is one of travelling to a place of letting go. KK's Retribution ends with the protagonist succumbing to his personal miseries, destroyed by the memories he's haunted by. It is clearly an intensely personal film, and about 10 years later, Kurosawa seems to have emerged from the other side of this painful misanthropy. We see that this impulse still holds a strong influence over him- Mizuki, tellingly, would rather escape to the spirit world with her deceased love than keep him on Earth with her, where she would have to continue the drudgeries of everyday life- but in the final moments, and indeed, at the end of every "episode" of this very episodic film, Kurosawa is able to move past that desire to give up and hide away from the rest of the world, overcome with memory and regret. In the final moments, Mizuki turns away from the shore, letting Yusuke escape to whatever afterlife he may find, and returns to live her own life.
★★★½ review by James on Letterboxd
Anyone coming into this having not seen any of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's work and thus unfamiliar with his style might find Journey to the Shore a testing, even exasperating experience. It's certainly one of his most experimental and spiritual films, having much more in common with something by Apichatpong Weerasethakul than the J-horror the director is most associated with.
It is a ponderous, challenging film with a leisurely pace and an almost aimlessly meandering plot that lacks urgency in arriving at distinctive revelations or bold statements. Reading some of the reviews here and there I didn't have high expectations and it doesn't rank among his best work but there are moments of serene beauty and tenderness here that are too wonderful to overlook. The story is essentially a literal interpretation of the Japanese ritual mitoru, in which someone sits by their dying loved one, speaks to them and prepares both individuals to say goodbye. The slight variation here is that Yusuke, the husband of widow Mizuki, has already been dead for three years and has finally returned in physical form to walk among the living and show her why it took him so long to reach her.
It's definitely a Kurosawa film in that the steely, frigid camera observes with menacing passivity the grey, rather bleak everyday surroundings of suburban Japan and though he's since diversified into other genres, the horror element is always present in his work, the only difference here is that the ghosts are out in the daylight rather than lurking in the shadows, as they were in Pulse. Some of the images are unsettling, but just as many are appealing, Akiko Ashizawa's understated digital cinematography really adds to Kurosawa's own predispositions.
There's a very minimalist aesthetic here, like if Ozu had branched out into sci-fi and though I didn't get all that much from it as a whole, certain scenes I found incredibly moving and memorable. It requires a considerable level of patience and won't be for everyone, perhaps those that have lost someone close to them will experience this film differently and obtain a firmer grasp on its finer points.
★★★★ review by Arthur Tuoto on Letterboxd
Gosto muito como o Kiyoshi conseguiu fazer um filme solene sem muitas sutilezas, tanto por esse tom edificante mais assumido, como pela naturalidade dos elementos sobrenaturais. As próprias relações cênicas parecem cada vez mais frontais, mais sem cerimônias e sempre muito abertas a intervenções variadas. É como se toda e qualquer metafísica sobrenatural já fizesse naturalmente parte desse mundo, basta virar uma esquina, apagar uma luz, olhar pro lado. A natureza das coisas pode ser mutável mas o canal sempre permanece aberto.
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