Short Movie Time: Among Four of Us (2020) review [OAFF 2021]

Introduction

With her latest short film, Among Four Of Us, Mayu Nakamura presents a conversational drama marked by the corona-reality. The short film does not only stand out because it was filmed during the corona-pandemic, but because it, albeit subtle, the impact of the pandemic and the measures to contain the virus on the social and psychological life of the subject.

Review

A little while after the state of emergency has been lifted, Koji (Kusano Kota) calls his former drama-club friends Nanae (Nahana) and Fusae (Urabe Fusako). While, at first, they talk about how the covid-situation has affected their life – Koji complains that all his stage and film jobs were cancelled and Nanae underlines the burden that befalls her as housewife due to the situation, the conversation quickly turns to the subject of Sayoko, a sexually proactive girl who, during college, affected all three of them.  

Among Four of Us (2020) by Mayu Nakamura

The beauty of Among Four of Us lies in the fact that it presents, in a very subtle way, two homologous narrative layers. The first layer of the narrative concerns how the virus affects the daily life of our three protagonists and the second layer explores how a certain girl, as if she were a virus, affected the mental life of our protagonists.  

In the first layer, Nakamura touches upon the impact of the state of emergency (e.g. the need to socially distance oneself from others, the stay-home directive, …) on social and professional lives and the subjective state of boredom/solitude that is exacerbated by this state of emergency.

She also shows how the internet allows for a kind of meeting to take place, but a meeting that, due to the lack of real bodies sharing the same space, has a vastly different quality. She highlights how for many people such virtual meetings lack pleasure – a pleasure function of the interactional dynamics of meeting bodies, but not without noting that, for other people, such virtualized way of meeting is safer for their subject.

Among Four of Us (2020) by Mayu Nakamura

The second layer explores, as mentioned above, the impact of a girl on the subjectivity of each. The characterization of Sayoko by Fusae is damning. Not only does she imply that Sayoko was driven by a certain narcissism – she wanted to steal what others had, but also that she was a master at utilizing her kawaii-ness to ensnare the desire of men. Nanae underlines, in a very Freudian way, that she, in her romantic endeavors, might have been searching for father figure. Yet, the ‘truth’ about Sayoko’s subject is not what is important in Nakamura’s narrative. What is important in Among Four of Us is that the acts of a subject always affect, often in unexpected ways, the subjective trajectory of others.    

The composition of Among Four of Us stand out due to its simplicity – the composition is a simple concatenation of fixed shots. The compositional simplicity works well for Nakamura’s narrative, because this fixity ‘forces’ her performers to infuse, via facial expressions and body language, the necessary emotionality to make this conversational drama work.  

Among Four of Us (2020) by Mayu Nakamura

Among Four of Us is a great short narrative that does not only succeed in highlighting the impact of the state of emergency on the subjective and social state of speaking beings but also show, in a very precise way, how the present of the subject is always marked by the acts by others in the past.

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