“This romantic, musical, comedy mixed with some kaiju goodness is as absurd as it gets, but it hits all the right emotional notes.”
Love and peace follows the story of the timid and troubled Ryoichi (Hiroki Hasegawa), who once dreamed of becoming a punk rocker. Never being able to realize his dream, he became a salaryman at a musical instrument parts company instead. He has feelings for his coworker Yuko Terishima (Kumiko Aso), but is unable to begin a normal conversation with her, let alone express his feelings.
One day, he has a fateful encounter with a turtle and purchases it to alleviate his loneliness. He names the turtle Pikadon – a term that refers to an atomic bomb, with ‘pika’ designating ‘bright light’ and ‘don’ designating ‘boom’. As Ryoichi discusses all of his dreams with Pikadon, the two form a genuine bond – Pikadon becoming Ryoichi’s only friend and support.
After his colleagues discover Pikadon at work and make fun of him, a flustered Ryoichi flushes Pikadon down the toilet – an act he immediately regrets. In the sewerage, Pikadon strands at a place where an old man (Toshiyuki Nishida) gathers all kinds of discarded toys and abandoned pets. They all have been given the ability to speak thanks to the Old man’s magical candy. But Pikadon is given the wrong candy.
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One of the reasons that makes the narrative’s departure, development and the resolution so effective is the initial grounding of Ryoichi’s subjective position. This subjective grounding is realized cinematographically in two ways: the framing of his self-devaluating paranoia and the use of close-ups.
The self-devaluating paranoia is framed by the interplay between the shots that show Ryoichi’s subjective and explicit interpretative view of his surroundings – characterized by the hearing of laughing and voices, and shots that frame his own reaction to this interpretative view. His interpretative view of his surroundings is nevertheless conditioned by the way he is treated by most of his colleagues and his boss. The close-ups related to Ryoichi are solely associated with (the few) positive exchanges. As they underline the importance of these encounters they enable the viewer to easily sympathize with Ryoichi’s subjective position, his dream to become a rock star and his friendship with Pikadon.
The initial grounding of Ryoichi is also characterized by comedic over-acting and a contrast between this over-acting and more normal acting (by others). This over-acting and the contrast suits the narrative very well, as it reveals the awkwardness of Ryoichi and underlines the impact of (his interpretation of ) the Other/others on him. The way the acting is approached makes the movie light-hearted and funny, while preserving the ability to sympathize with the personal narrative of Ryoichi.
There is an apparent shift in the cinematography, associated with narrative development. Without revealing too much about the story, the cinematography shifts, with respect to Ryoichi, from a subjective viewpoint to a more objective viewpoint, a shift that communicates his changed position, his personal transformation, to the viewer. With this changed position, the overacted awkwardness makes places for and (albeit less) overacted eccentricity of a rock star.
In Love And Peace Sion Sono opts for a cinematography that enforces the narrative/subjective continuity and the lightheartedness, rather using the cinematography to create “moments of poetical effects” (which enforce in their own way the impact of the narrative on the viewer) like he did in other projects like in Suicide circle or Guilty of Romance.
The narrative of Love and Peace touches upon many things, but it is first and foremost and tale about love and friendship. And this themes are approached by the element of the wish. Love and Peace is a narrative that reveals that one’s wish is never truly to be taken at face-value. In other words, the explicit uttered wish is always a way to realize a more fundamental wish, a wish that always concerns love.
With the realization of his wish to become a rock star, Ryoichi loses himself in the aspect of the human ego, the superficiality of the image of a star he drapes himself in, an image that is not Ryoichi anymore. Pikadon’s final speech is there to remind him of the very speech he uttered in the beginning – his uttered words concerning his love for Yuko. This speech breaks through his apparent masquerade of flamboyance and brings him in touch with the subject he buried underneath it.
As far as social commentary goes, Love and Peace touches upon theme of consumerism and the infatuation of the Japanese society with new trends of shopping. But at a more deeper fundamental level, Sion Sono underlines nothing other than the following: Don’t lose yourself in the superficiality of images, but keep in touch with the very words you have uttered and the feelings attached to those words that structure our subject.
Love and peace is a magnificent and memorable narrative with an epic conclusion. This romantic, musical, comedy mixed with some kaiju goodness is as absurd as it gets, but it hits all the right emotional notes. Sion Sono has creating a touching and heartwarming tale about love and friendship, a tale everyone should see.