If one asks us what impresses us the most in our ongoing search for new Japanese directorial talent, we would – maybe contrary to everyone’s expectations – not say that it is the diversity of new voices. What impresses our more than anything, it is how these directors have utilized the interplay between the image and the signifier and how they, with their short-movies, corroborate the importance of the signifier. Our next director, Takeshi Kogahara, is no exception.
Fuminao Yamamoto (Kenshin Endo) and Nagisa (Himeka Asami) do not participate in the swimming lessons. They always sit at the edge of the pool. But while this could an opportunity to bond, Yamamoto always remains silent, not uttering a word to her. One day, she asks why he doesn’t talk to her.
Nagisa, as a narrative, concerns relations or, in more correct terms, the subjective impact of the subject’s inability to establish a social bond with the other sex. Kogahara’s highly evocative narrative a tragedy of subjective inhibition.
The narrative starts when Nagisa asks Yamamoto why he does not talk with her. Yamamoto’s failure to provide a satisfying answer compels her to ask if he does not want to talk to her. His answer: ‘It’s not like that’. His answer, again unsatisfying, does lead the spectator to pose the question to what aspect causes his inhibition towards her. In the same movement, the spectator is able to question why Nagisa suddenly decided to address herself to him.
The fact that she addresses herself to him does enable Yamamoto to converse with her. Before long Nagisa’s and Yamamoto’s conversation touches upon matters of love. Even though both our youths are unable to speak openly about their subjective position, only vaguely touching upon what they truly want to convey, the superficial conversation about love is more relevant that it seems at first.
Nagisa’s is visually composed with fixed shots and subtle spatial moving shots. And, in some cases, shaky framed shots and following shots as well. While such mix is not extraordinary as such, Kogahara’s composition stands out because it is marked by a subtle intimacy. The intimate atmosphere of Nagisa is function of two elements, a visual and an auditory element. The visual element concerns the shot-compositions – e.g. close-ups of the faces (and their expressions) of Yamamoto and Nagisa, and the auditory element concerns the fact that Nagisa’s whisper her first enunciation.
Another element that stands out in Nagisa’s visual composition is its subtle visual poetry. But this poetic play is, luckily, not self-indulgent in nature. Kogahara’s visual play – a visual play focused on Yamamoto – allows him to evoke a vague but rather intimate insight in Yamamoto’s subjective position.
Kogahara’s visual play with imagery creates an interesting narrative structure. As said before, the concatenation of impressions, generate, by association, some meaning concerning Yamamoto’s subjective position. But the true evocation of meaning, i.e. the reveal of what the narrative is truly about, should not be situated there. The truth of the narrative, a truth dealing with the impossibility of forming a social bond, is only evoked by what, via an interplay with the poetic play with imagery, remains unsaid (Narra-note 1 (spoiler)).
Takeshi Kogahara’s impresses with his highly evocative tragedy of subjective inhibition. What is most impressive in Nagisa is, in fact, not Kogahara’s play with imagery – a visual play that besides dictating the cinematographical composition reveals Yamamoto’s subjective position, but the very way by which Kogahara is able, via his visual play, to make that what remains unsaid so communicative.
Narra-note 1: The girl Yamamoto liked was no one other than Nagisa. His inhibition towards her, as we can presuppose, was mainly caused by his feelings for her. That her death has such an impact on Yamamoto is because his failure to overcome his inhibition before her death has doomed his love for her to remain structurally un-recruited.