While we already know Kentaro Kishi as actor from narratives like Yusaku Matsumoto‘s Noise (2017) and Yosuke Takeuchi‘s The Sower (2016), he’s more all-round than he at first glance appears to be. With Hammock, Kentaro Kishi takes, once again, the directorial seat.
Three years ago, war photographer Kentaro went missing around Hebron, Palestine. With only his camera and passport as things to remember him by, Momoko (Naoko Ema) his wife, returned to Japan.
One day, Momoko, together with her boyfriend Adam (Phillipe Aymard) and his son Joseph (Hugo Minaki), visits her daughter Kanae (Kanae Kishi), now an elementary school student. She invites her daughter to come to America with them.
Hammock is, in our interpretation, a narrative of double refusal. The first refusal concerns a refusal concerning sharing the camera. The reluctance of Momoko to share the camera and to take ownership of it reveals a fearful reluctance to work-through the confrontation with the camera and finality of the disappearance/death of Kentaro it represents.
Momoko’s refusal to accept this camara is, in truth, nothing but a refusal to accept his death. Accepting his camera (and his passport) means, in other words, accepting the finality of his death (Narra-note 1). The camera, as real object, is a real sign of his death – the hammock, in this respect, is the sign of his life.
The second refusal is Kanae’s refusal to go to America. This refusal is not only a refusal of the new man, but also a refusal of her mother. Did the act of leaving her daughter not feel as a refusal of her subject by her mother? We’ll leave this question open. Hammock nevertheless delves into the very difficulty for a child to accept a new man besides her mother. Luckily, Adam, the new man in Momoko’s life, does everything to win her over.
Kishi also poetically plays with the metaphor of the window. This is not only apparent in the story of Abraham’s tomb, which is central to the narrative, but also with by Kishi’s compositions with windows and Adam’s poetic reframing of the eyes as windows of the heart. In our view, this poetic play that structures Kishi’s narrative, highlights the importance for a subject to accept another in his difference – and not in his resemblance.
Kentaro Kishi impresses with his fluid and dynamic cinematographical composition. While the use of fluid camera-movement and shaky framing of course supports this dynamism, the true source of Kishi’s dynamism is to be found in the fluid way documentary-like sequences and (concatenation of) stills are interweaved within the narrative’s visual unfolding (Narra-Note 2). This blend of fiction with semi-non-fiction elements gives the fictional narrative a sense of being grounded in reality (Cine-note 1).
Even when the non-fiction elements become less prominent from the cinematographical composition, the subtle shaky framing – an aspect we mentioned before – sustains the evoked documentary-like realism of Hammock. The documentary-like realism also benefits from the natural performances of each – and especially the performance of Naoko Ema – and the skillful use of silence.
The naturalism at the level of acting ensures that the myriad of small moments of happiness become truly heartwarming. With this narrative, Kishi truly reveal himself as a master of framing such small moments just like Hirokazu Koreeda and Takeuchi Yosuke is.
With Hammock, Kentaro Kishi proves that he, besides being a great actor, is also a very talented director. His precise cinematographal compositions reveal Kishi as being a master of framing small moments of endearing happiness just like Hirokazu Koreeda and Takeuchi Yosuke as well as a director with poetic sensibilities.
Narra-note 1: By sharing the camera, Momoko accepts his death. While subjective acceptance is, in most cases, the neccessary condition for socializing/sharing the truth one has accepted, sharing, as is implied by the narrative, can also be the act that enables the subject to accept this truth.
Narra-note 2: The semi-non-fiction elements in the opening sequence of the narrative depict the past of Kentaro and Momoko in the Middle East.
Cine-Note 1: Nevertheless, it is important to highlight that the evocation of a reality that grounds the narrative is, by being evoked within the narrative’s structure, already narravitized. The non-fiction elements are a lure that benefits or changes how the narrative is experienced.