Yusuke Noro is another young director who is slowly impressing audiences. In 2019, for instance, his short Mutual Understanding, was selected for the Kiryu Award 2019 and Hiroshima Kowai Film Festival 2020. One year later, his mid-length film Before I Become a God was selected for TAMA NEW WAVE Un Certain Regard and Kyoto International Film and Art Festival Creator’s Factory. Can he impress once again with his latest film?
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Reiji (Kenji Shio) has been together with Nanase (Kaho Taguchi) for a long time. Yet, due to the complaints he receives from her – you spend too much on clothes – and the lack of support for his stylistic choices he is silently hoping to be given an excuse by her to dump her. In fact, he secretly hopes she cheats on him.
Nanase, on the other hand, wonders whether he takes their relationship seriously. As she is struggling with the riddle of Reiji’s love for her, she is romantically approached by Shun (Kosuke Fujita), one of the new part-timers at her company.
We’re Dead is a narrative that does not simply explores the dynamic of relational problems but highlights the role the un-shareability of our own singular logic, of our own Otherness, plays within the field of relational discontent as well as in the lingering feeling that the Other is forever out of reach.
The first narrative element that introduces this theme is the suffocating weight that Reiji feels from Nanase. The pressure that emanates from her and weighs on him is caused by her presence, a presence that works as a representation of the societal Other. Nanase functions as a phantom of the societal Other in so far that she, by being present, confronts Reiji with the void between his desire for success, the desire of the Other, and the lack of success as a comedian in the societal field. Whether she is conscious of it or not, she reflects this inner void back to him.
Rather than dealing with his current subjective position – the source of his discontent, Reiji wishes to escape his relationship. By framing Nanase’s disinterest in his new bought clothes and her complaint that he buys too much as an infringement on his personal freedom of expression, he expertly creates a verbal defence against the void of unsuccess that feeds on his Eros.
Nanase – this is the second narrative element – is struggling with the neurotic riddle of the other’s love – Does he love me? The depressive void that weighs on Reiji, a void that he tries to ward off by shopping and blaming Nanase, has led to a lack of significant relational acts. Nanase feels deprived of those signs that fleetingly prove Reiji’s love for her (e.g. his smile, … etc.). In truth, he is so busy avoiding the truth of his own failure that he fails to realize how he truly feels about her.
Nanase’s complaints are not truly meant to curtail his subjective freedom, but are a somewhat indirect attempt to put his commitment to their relational future into question. What she desires to see from him is that he invest the little money he has in acts that, for Nanase, can be received as signs of his love and, thus, proof of his commitment. Yet, as her signifiers sort no effect, she welcomes Shun’s romantic approach. Can she, by confronting him with who he is about to lose, instigate a subjective change in him and break the subjective deadlock that inhibits him? Or will he use this opportunity to escape the presence of the Other?
The composition ofWe’re Dead is quite simple. Instead of decorating his composition with quick dynamic moments merely for variety’s sake, Noro mainly visualizes his narrative with a concatenation of lengthy static shots and some long shaky dynamic shots (cine-note 1). While some spectators might argue that such ‘slow’ style is boring, Noro’s reliance on such measured rhythm allows him to give the necessary space to his cast to breathe life into the presence of their characters as well as in their interactions with each other.
And, luckily, the cast rises up to meet the challenge. What makes We’re Dead so enjoyable and engaging for the spectator is nothing other than the very relational dynamism the talented cast realizes on the ‘stage’. In this sense, the unrushed nature of the composition merely helps emphasizing the natural flow of emotions within the interactions, as naturally engendered by the actors and actresses.
Yet, the composition is not without its problems. Sometimes, Noro heightens the rhythm of the composition for no apparent reason or adds unnecessary visual decorations. And by not echoing the flow of the interactions into the rhythm of cutting, he creates unnecessary moments of visual disharmony within his narrative.
We’re Dead is a great narrative that explores the irreducible Otherness that marks our relationships in an effective way. Yet, the end-product could have been even better. While Noro is able to rely on great performances of his cast – this is the main reason why his film is so engaging, his uneven composition often undercuts the performances and their impact on the spectator.
Cine-note 1: The way Noro composed his narrative is promising, but ultimately rough and unfinished. The spectator easily feels that Noro is still seeking his own style and flow.
Moreover, due to time constraints, there are some unresolved ‘problems‘ within Noro’s composition (e.g. a character speaking without his mouth moving).