“A slow, subdued but very powerful narrative about the importance of human connection and the far-reaching subjective effects modern Japanese capitalistic society can have on the subject (…) that will long linger in the spectator’s mind.”
Noise, the debut feature film of Yusaku Matsumoto, is some sort of a passion project. When he was sixteen years old, the incident known as the Akihabara Massacre motivated Matsumoto to research indiscriminate killings: he wanted to know why people committed such crimes.
This film is an attempt to provide a nuanced answer to the question of why some people commit these crimes. But this attempt was not Matsumoto’s sole endeavour, but a collaborative work between the staff and the actors. By conducting discussions between everyone, the cinematographical product was built up scene by scene and finally composed, with so many personal feelings involved in this narrative, into a final narrative. So is this collaborative answer deep enough to provide the spectator food for thought?
Misa Sakurada (Kokoro Shinozaki), a member of the underground idol group Luuka, lost her mother 8 years ago in the Akihabara massacre. She hopes faintly to be able to see her mother again, once she becomes successful as an idol. The incident also caused rift between her and her father, with whom she lives. As life gets harder and with no one to turn to, a feeling she didn’t knew before starts boiling in her body.
Another girl that the narrative follows is Rie (Urara Anjo). Even though she lives together with her father and bedridden grandfather, she isolates herself from them, seldom talking with her father. And then the relationship with her boyfriend worsens. On the other hand, Rie’s father unable to make connection with his daughter, becomes infatuated by Misa Sakurada from Luuka, who reminds him of his daughter.
The narrative also follows Ken Ohhashi (kousuke Suzuki), a part time worker for a shipping firm in Akihabara. Ken lives together with his mother. At first this goes well, both helping each other out, but when Ken’s mother starts to starts to go out with younger men, Ken starts losing his emotional stability.
The power of Noise‘s narrative lies in the slowness by which the subjective reality of each character (Misa, Ken and Rie) is investigated. By serenely painting the interactions or the lack of interactions each character has with others, Matsumoto is able to bring each character’s complexity sensibly to the fore and to underline the effects capitalist society in general and the lack of deep social connections in particular can have on a subject. There is an emptiness and a feeling of disconnection that characterizes each narrative – loneliness and solitude permeates their lives while insecurity about the future remains a highly familiar feeling. Furthermore, the narrative reveals vividly the perverse effects of money and how it organizes the social bonds people enter into and maintain – one of the effects being the draining of any subjective sincerity in the interactions.
Misa, Rie and Ken aim to find some form of connection, how superficially it may be, in a Tokyo characterized by total hopelessness. Misa’s life is a concatenation of short “fake” superficial connections – connections created by the exchange of money, either as idol or as service-provider in the soft-erotic business of her agency. In this respect, the narrative provides an insight in the various dimensions of the underground idol scene, e.g. the unpolished dancing and singing, the importance of fan-interactions, self-promotion-events, hand-shake events,… etc.. Rie has a certain connection with her boyfriend, but this safeguarding connection eventually falls away, leaving her no other connections than the more impersonal communications she has through the mobile phone – connections that shield herself from her father, who tries his best to create a father-daughter bond. Ken is driven to a point where he, as subject, is not able to find any other choice than the decision he made – a decision to rescue him from his hopeless situation, from his lack of future.
The beautiful frustration that characterizes the greater part of the narrative is the lack of true communication or the failure of communication to create a deep social bond. As there doesn’t seem to be another subject to direct one’s subjectivity to, the conversational speech in the narrative remains mainly superficial – or stays empty in psychoanalytical terms (narra-note 1), or finds other ways of expressing itself. Nevertheless, both Ken and Misa make a transition to formative speech, speech directed to the Other, in Ken’s case, and to her father, in Misa’s case (narra-note 2). Rie, for that matter, stays silent on a subjective level. With the narrative thriving on the lack of true human connection between subjects, it should not come as a surprise that Noise also focuses on dysfunctional families – families that are unable to provide security and warmth (narra-note 3).
The cinematography of Noise stands out by its fluidity. Matsumoto shows a preference for a concatenation of – often lengthy and often slightly shaking – moving shots, while inserting some fixed shots once in a while (cine-note 1, cine-note 2). The fluidity Matsumoto attains is furthermore supported by his thoughtful use of various cinematographical techniques, like slow-motion, flashbacks, cross fade, Pov shots, playing with depth of field, … etc., and the powerful electronic music of Banvox that proves to be crucial to the composition of the scenes of the narrative (cine-note 3). Furthermore, from a compositional viewpoint the three narratives are at times beautifully mingled with each other, flowing from one character to another – giving each character a continuous presence in the narrative space and underlining the narrative space as such as a presence. Furthermore, the narrative societal space of Noise is painted, by Kentaro Kishi, with slightly washed-out colours, infusing the narrative atmosphere with a certain bleakness that further underlines the solitude and isolation that permeates the various narratives. This atmosphere is further enhanced by the subdued but powerful performances of each actor of actress. Especially the performance of Kokoro Shinozaki is nuanced, deep and emotionally powerful.
Noise is a slow, subdued but very powerful narrative about the importance of human connection and the far-reaching subjective effects modern Japanese capitalistic society can have on the subject. In this respect, Matsumoto, the staff, and the actors, in an attempt to find an answer why a subject would go on killing, questions contemporary Japanese society and the effects it has on the very social fabric that, in normal circumstances, would give a subject a safe place from where it can speak. It is a questioning, empowered by the effective cinematography and the deep nuanced performances, that will long linger in the spectator’s mind.
Cine-note 1: There is furthermore a nice mix of close-ups, medium shots, … etc.
Cine-note 2: The moving shots mainly follow the movement of the characters in the narrative space. This has the effect of focusing us on his subjective presence of the character in the narrative space.
Cine-note 3: The flashbacks are almost solely used in Misa’s narrative. Flashbacks return to that point in the past where Misa’s father hears the news of the death of Kaori Sakurada, Misa’s mother, or focusing on Misa in those moments around the time the mass murder took place..
Narra-note 1: Ken’s narrative voice is often a subjective voice, but this voice is only addressed to himself. It is a solitary communication, without another subject as address. While the taping of his voice is done to deliver death threats to a certain woman, this taping short-circuits the act of speech-exchange, disabling true communication.
Narra-note 2: With formative speech we mean that the speech, directed to an other, gives expression to the subjective position the subject occupies. Ken’s position is a position of a subject without a future, a subject that no one understands, while Misa, in her position, is finally to give expression to her anger and able to put her father into question.
Narra-note 3: In the case of Misa, the presence of father’s trauma and the aspect of the mothers dead isolates both members of the family from each other and from others.