While some might know Sara Ogawa from her acting work, it might be surprising she also taking steps as a director. Two years ago, at the 40th PFF Festival, she presented one of her first fruits of her work as a director.
Sara Ogawa’s complete short movie is available below.
Kotoko (Miyu Ogawa) has no friends at school. At her birthday party, she is suddenly asked about her friends at school. Irritated, she tells her parents and grandparents that she has a friend, Sacchan (Yuna Watanabe). But Kotoko has yet to meet Sacchan as she suffers from an illness and has not been able to attend school. Yet, this does not stop Kotoko from spending time with (an imaginary) her after school.
Ogawa Sara’s She’s Gone might, on the surface, concern the theme of friendship, the true theme of the narrative concern the feeling of disconnection among youth, the desire for freedom, as well as the notion of death.
Taking these themes into account, what She’s Gone truly shows is that Kotoko, even though she does not feel at ease within society/school-life, even though she complains about the boring and repetitive daily rhythm, remains attached to society – the place where she exists. Her meetings with her imaginary friend might guarantee a break in the boring repetitiveness of Kotoko’s daily life, but Kotoko also understands that escaping in her imagination does not alter the current subjective reality. Death might give the ultimate freedom, but it is not a risk she is willing to take.
In the sequence depicting Kotoko’s birthday a highly problematic behaviour, especially when adolescents are concerned, another aspect is beautifully touched upon: talking about someone as if they are not there. While some questions are directed to her – questions that are nevertheless more focused on putting the person who posed them at ease, than truly including her in the conversation as a subject, the other questions, by virtue of being posed to her parents, effaces her existence as subject completely. Nothing is worse – even though it is a common reality – than to be ignored as subject at a time when conquering a subjective position for oneself is of fundamental importance.
The themes, as already explicated above, are subtly interwoven in the narrative. Yes, Ogawa’s narrative might, at first glance, not be that dense thematically speaking, but those spectators following the evocative resonances at the level of the signifier as well as those at the level of will meet the themes we have mentioned above.
Sara Ogawa composed her short narrative with a fine sense of movement. While moments of fixity are, of course, present in her visualization, Ogawa’s composition stands out due to its use of camera movement. But Ogawa does not only reveal her compositional talent via her pleasing dynamic compositions, but also via her use of more experimental camera-viewpoints and the subtle way by which she uses imagery to underline, via association, certain signifiers.
She’s Gone is an impressive narrative, not only because of its splendid cinematography, but also due to its subtle associative play with signifiers and imagery as well as the subtlety by which the themes of the narrative are developed. With this short narrative, Sara Ogawa proves that she’s an extremely talented director.