Mrs Noisy (2019) review [CinemAsia Film Festival]

Introduction

With Mrs Noisy, Chihiro Amano offers a critical re-writing of the famous case of Miyoko Kawahara, who was sentenced in 2006 to 20 months prison for spending two and a half years blasting music in an attempts to force her neighbor to move out.

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Review

One day, Novelist Maki Yoshioka (Yukiko Shinohara), who has been struggling with a creative slump since the birth of her child six years ago, gets into an argument with her neighbour Miwako Wakata (Yoko Ootaka) over a futon. Due to this disagreement, Miwako starts bullying Maki. Using the bullying of her neighhour as inspiration, she decides to write about Miwako (Narra-note 1). Unexpectedly, her serialized novel turns the feud into a media sensation.

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Mrs Noisy is a narrative that delves into the inherent difficulty for the speaking being to hear and give place to the other as a subject. This is not only evident in the relation between Maki and Miwako, but also in the relation between Maki and her husband Yuichi (Takuma Nagao) and between Maki and her daughter Nako (Chise Niitsu).

One easily feels that the relation between Maki and her husband is far from perfect. The main problem – a communicative problem – is that her husband does not hear what she says. He might listen, he might respond, but his answers reveal a subtle disinterest or even lack of investment in her subjective position, her struggle, and her frustrations. Maki, for her part, is (too) invested in trying to get her writing-career back on track. As a result, she not only fails to not take her husband’s warnings seriously but also fails to answer the demands of her daughter in a decent way. What Maki does not hear in her Nako’s demands is that they ask for her love. The repeated failure of answering her demands is thus nothing but a failure of giving Nako a sign of her love. More than anything, it is this failure – and the failure of Maki to recognize her failure as mother, that forms the hidden cause of Maki and Miwako’s conflict.

Mrs Noisy 2 (Chihiro Amano)

That Maki and Miwako are unable to form a bond is, at least at the surface, caused by Miwako’s noisy daily morning sessions of futon-beating and her failure to let Maki know when she takes care of her daughter (Narra-note 2). These problems turn Miwako into a very easy target for Maki to project her frustration about her writing on. It is also this frustration that propels her to finally confront her about the futon-beating. Yes, Miwako’s acts are noisy and warrant a questioning, but Maki’s confrontation precludes any conversation whatsoever. Miwako has, in fact, becomes an image that, by capturing all Maki’s frustrations, protects her from confronting her own frustration. But their relation only truly becomes sour when Miwako, after letting Nako stay over at her place, confronts Maki with her failure as mother. Miwako delivers without knowing a double injury (Narra-note 3).

Mrs Noisy (Chihiro Amano)

Mrs Noisy, by showing both Maki’s and Miwako’s side of the story, sensibly explores the misrecognition that marks human relationships – i.e. the all-to-common human failure to listen to another subject’s subjective position. Amano’s narrative beautifully reveals the human subject as a machine of interpretation, as a machine that keeps on constructing meaning (imaginary) about the subjects that surround him/her. Maki’s interpretation of her neighbour – i.e. her first impression, makes any possibility to question Miwako’s subjective struggle impossible. Maki is thus not frustrated with Miwako as subject, but with Miwako as an image, an image incorporating all her frustrations, she herself has constructed. What, in fact, is created is a mirror-like opposition between two subjects that can only meet each other as a (projected) self-constructed image. Such kind of opposition, an opposition situation marked by a mutual non-understanding, can only lead to a volatile conflict (Theme-note 1).

What’s noteworthy about the cinematography of Mrs. Noisy is its naturalness. The first element important for evoking this naturalness is the use of subtle movement – especially the movement at the level of the framing. It is, in other words, this subtle documentary-like touch that infuses the narrative with a certain dimension of authenticity. Another element important for evoking naturalness and authenticity – an element that ensures the continued sense of this naturalness – is the natural lighting-design.

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Besides this naturalness, Mrs Noisy’s cinematography is also effective in highlighting, e.g. by using more extravagant cinematographical movement, the lighthearted nature of this narrative. This lightheartedness is also evoked by the lighthearted musical accompaniment. But the musical accompaniment is not only used for lighthearted moments. It is also successfully used to infuse a moving emotionality in a myriad of sequences. It is, in fact, mainly due to the effective application of music for these more dramatic purposes, that the narrative’s message is able to impact the spectator.

Chihiro Amano’s Mrs Noisy is a narrative that, via a balanced mixture of comedy and drama, succeeds in confronting the spectator with the problematic imaginary aspect that ever threatens inter-subjective relationships. With her narrative, Amano urges the spectator to be more considerate of someone else’s subjective position. Such kind of consideration does not consist in projecting one’s own interpretation on the other, but, as the narrative underlines, to grasp the coordinates by which the life of another is structured – i.e. to get an understanding of the logic of another subject.

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Notes

Narra-note 1: The idea to write about Miwako comes from Maki’s brother. Instead of letting her neighbour become the object of all her frustrations, he urges her to take her as an object of inspiration, as a creative outlet for her frustrations. Maki accepts his proposal without realizing the possible repercussions her fake fictional narrative might have.

Narra-note 2: The true cause of the feud lie nevertheless elsewhere. The element of causation is the very fact that Maki shows no interest in the other as subject. Not only does Maki fail to hear her daughter’s struggle – even considering her subjective presence as unwelcome, her projection of her own judgmental image on others makes her unable to listen to their subjective struggle.

It is not difficult to see how this also explains why Maki’s novels remain superficial.

Narra-note 3: When Ruichi, after Maki and Miwako’s confrontation, underlines that she, by leaving her daughter unsupervised, is also at fault, he also subtly says that he bears no responsibility. His comment, while true, puts him squarely outside the problematic bond between mother and daughter as if he was an outsider without any responsibility.

Theme-note 1: The narrative also touches upon the fact how predatory social media are used for one’s own enjoyment. The popularity of the videos of Maki and Miwako fighting, coupled with Maki’s one-sided novel, only causes Miwako to turn into an object of mockery, an object, that by being mocked, provides pleasure.

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