Far Away, Further Away (2022) review [OAFF 2022]

Introduction

Event though many spectators never venture in the world of psychoanalysis, directors quite often confront the spectator with the symptomatic dynamics, the complex nature of relational functioning, and the impact of eros, dreams, and desire on our subjective functioning.

One director that succeeds, time and time again, to provide interesting commentary on relations and subjectivity is none other than Shinji Imaoka, one of the Seven Lucky Gods of Pink. His latest, Far Away, Further Away is not different.

Osaka Asian Film Festival

Review

Even though Sayoko (Manami Shindo) seems to be carefree and happily married to her fishing-obsessed husband Goro (Ippei Osako), her mind is riddled with doubts and a lingering dissatisfaction has taken a hold over her. This doubt is, again, strengthened when an elderly costumer informs her that a marriage without any common ground is weaker.  

Eventually, she decides to divorce her husband and begins to scope out apartments to move to. The real estate agent that assists her in her search, Yohei Shitara (Kaito Yoshimura), a man who was abandoned by his wife Mitsuko (Hitomi Wada) three years ago. Due to his interactions with and his blossoming feelings for Sayoko, he decides to search for his wife to overcome the unresolved conflict that marks his being.  

Far Away, Further Away (2022) by Shinji Imaoka

Far Away, Further Away is a narrative that explores how, within a given romantic bond, the hidden friction between subjective desires and the concatenation of missed encounters affects the subjects by slowly destroying the inter-subjective fundaments upon which this bond was founded.   

The dynamic of the missed encounter is elegantly explored by Imaoka by highlighting how, within speech-interactions, seemingly mundane speech-acts are, in many cases, driven by unvocalized conflicts and frustrated desires. A speech-act that seems to be merely imaginary chit-chat often indirectly signals a subjective conflict to this other. Yet, either this other catches a glimpse of the conflict or frustration that caused the vocalizing of the statement or he blindly steps into the trap of the statement’s imaginary mundanity. Sayoko recounting her meeting with the elderly woman to her husband at the dinner table is nothing but such a speech-act. Her story is not aimed at providing pleasure for both – engender a smile or two, but functions as an elegantly constructed invitation addressed to her husband to sense her doubt about their current marital functioning and, if possible, undertake some action to change the marital dynamic.    

The concatenation of missed encounters, the repetition of missing the subjectivity of the other in speech, is not the cause of the faltering of the marital bond, but the effect of an unresolved inter-subjective conflict (Narra-note 1). This unvocalized conflict is the source of Sayoko’s marital dissatisfaction and her unquenchable doubt and its unresolved nature underpins the growing emptiness of the signifiers and interactions that shape the marital bond. The true problem is thus not the lack of a shared interest or hobby, but the fact that, due to an unresolved conflict, the daily marital rhythm has merely become a concatenation of missed encounters, a set of empty moments draped in imaginary marital happiness but devoid of intersubjective meaning.

Far Away, Further Away (2022) by Shinji Imaoka

Of course, this relational emptiness cannot but impact Goro as well. He might seem content imprisoned in this empty marital shell, but the spectator easily feels that the obsessional dimension of his hobby functions as a symptomatic solution to avoid the confrontation with his unfulfilled marital fantasies.  

Besides exploring how a marital bond can unravel and break, Imaoka also delivers an exploration of how a new romantic bond comes into existence. While Yohei, at first, feels awkward around Sayoko, her presence, a charming mix of expressive childish excitement and subtle adult-like seriousness, quickly becomes attractive and erotic to him (Narra-note 2, Acting-note 1). Why? Simply said, because her presence fully embodies the discourse of ‘cute/kawaii’. Her free-spirited way of speaking and her subtle thoughtless acts – speech and acts that playfully disregard unwritten social rules – do not only evoke her ‘innocent’ nature but also elegantly echoes a lack, a lack that invites the male subject to present himself to her as the ‘fatherly-phallic’ solution, as the one who can take care of her.   

Yet, despite her playful seductive comportment, by which she turned herself into an imaginary shiny object-of-desire for Yohei, she refuses him. She refuses him on the ground that his subject is contaminated by the unresolved riddle of his marital failure. Even if his desire for Sayoko is blossoming, Yohei cannot truly leave the past behind; he has no means – read no answers – to inscribe the marital failure and Mitsuko’s puzzling desire into his subject in a way that allows him to truly move on and get over her (Narra-note 3).

Far Away, Further Away (2022) by Shinji Imaoka

The composition of Far Away, Further Away offers a balanced mix between static and dynamic moments. Yet, the visual balance Imaoka crafted is not without purpose – it is not simply for variety’s sake. He expertly manipulates the dynamic flow to emphasize expressed emotions (e.g. facial expressions) and interactions that calls these bodily expressions forth. He also richly utilizes subtle shakiness to highlight the emotional dimension of certain interactions – conflictual or not, and strengthen the performances that bring these complex emotions to life.   

Far Away, Further Away also offers many pleasing shot-compositions, either by offering a glance at Hokkaido’s natural beauty or by elegantly exploiting geometry.The musical pieces are used effectively, either to accompany narrative transitions and, in some cases, moments of subjective vacillation or to emphasize a certain subjective change that has taken place.    

Far Away, Further Away is a beautiful film that elegantly explores the role the imaginary plays in marital failure as well as in the beginning of a new romantic bond. The continued lack of inter-subjective encounters slowly disintegrates the symbolic bond of marriage and the entrapment of desire solely plays out at the level of the imaginary. We highly recommended for those spectators who wish to gain a better understanding at the complicated game of love.   

Notes

Narra-note 1: According to Sayoko, her marital relationship started to falter when she started to refuse to have sex with her husband. This refusal was, for Sayoko, a response to a radical missed encounter, a clash between her husband’s sudden demand for children to escape the pressure of his parents – a parental wish without any desire – and his rejection of Sayoko’s vocalized dream and parental desire – a refusal of subjectivity.

Acting-note 1: Manami Shindo truly steals the show as Sayoko. Her layered performance is, in our view, one of the main reasons why Imaoko’s film works so well.   

Narra-note 2: It becomes, moreover, apparent that Sayoko echoes something of Mitsuko and Mitsuko something of Sayoko to Yohei. For Yohei, this female ‘mirror’ complicates his ability to fully commit to a new romantic future.    

Narra-note 2: Mitsuko’s puzzling desire is, in our view, deeply hysteric. What she demands of the other is proof of being loved. Yet, for her, only physical acts, sexual or other, can be signs of the other’s love.

Running away from Yohei and waiting for him to find her because she could not return can, in this sense, be read as a radical demand for his love. Her act is a question: Can you still love me after the ravage my unfulfilled desire for being loved caused? Yet, as Yohei’s reluctance to meet her underlines, he failed to discern this unvocalized demand through her puzzling Mitsuko’s acts. Yet, how does the continued absence of his proof of love impact Mitsuko’s demand and her subjective trajectory?   

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