[Short Movie Time] Ache (2017) Review

“Despite the technical shortcomings of the narrative, the artistic talent of Endo is evident and her ability to cause emotion and evoke symbolism comes nicely to the fore.”


In an attempt to further support upcoming Japanese directors, we also decided to review shorts and interview, when possible, the directors behind them. In most cases these shorts are an attempt to attract interest in one’s talent – and budget to make a first full-length feature film. This time, we focus on Atsuko Endo’s latest short movie Ache.

[In contrast with full-length feature films, short movies will not receive a score.]


ache2One day, Yuki (Atsuko Endo), who has a big bandage on her right cheek, visits her grandmother (Kinuyo Tsuchiya) who is living in the countryside. At night, while changing her bandage, she looks at herself in the mirror. The wound is all she sees, leading her into a state of despair.

Atsuko Endo’s narrative concerns at first nothing more than the impact of the real of the wound. Faced with her wound in the mirror, it is not so much Yuki who sees the wound, but the wound that sees her. Her wound has no other effect than making the trauma present. It should not surprise us that the covering of the wound, also covers the trauma. Ache3What is nevertheless surprising is that, after the covering the trauma, the narrative shifts its focus to the relation between grandchild and grandmother, before returning to the  (overcoming of the) trauma that was nevertheless kept visibly and metaphorically present by the bandage.

To compose her narrative, Atsuko Endo (and Masao Yamagata) uses mostly fixed shots, while slowly introducing more moving shots into the mix (Cine-note 1). Endo’s tendency of ‘fixation’, which focuses on simplicity in geometrical composition, and the later naturalness she eventually finds with her moving shots, truly enables her to showcase of her artistic ability and ability to evoke emotion. ache4And while her artistic talent is evident in her shot-composition as such, she nevertheless has to improve – and she no doubt will – in the technical register of composing the concatenation of shots, e.g. cross-fades are used inconsistently, sound often falters between shots, the consistency of  the sound-design, the flow of certain scenes, … and so on.

As a cinematographical product, Ache has to be experienced as an experiment with imagery. It is evident from the narrative itself and the cinematography that Endo is still in the process of seeking her own language with images and to find her way to communicate the subjectivity of her main character. But despite the technical shortcomings of the narrative, the artistic talent of Endo is evident and her ability to cause emotion and evoke symbolism comes nicely to the fore.


Cine-note 1: While one moving shot in the beginning in the narrative hurts the consistency of Endo’s cinematography, the later moving and following shots nicely fit in into the cinematographical blend. There is also one zoom-in movement that feels unnecessary.


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