Every year, the Osaka Asian Film Festival shines a special light on an upcoming directorial talent. This year, the honour befalls Haruna Tanaka. As part of this special focus, two of her short films, Kanro (2023) and Shall We Love You? (2022) are screened at the Nakanoshima museum of Art in Osaka.
One afternoon, drama club members Makoto (Nishiki Morikawa), Mei (Saya Imajyo) and Haruka (Nami Ishida) get together to discuss their adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince. As they start going over the script they translated by themselves, Mei suddenly asks the others if the Swallow is happy, instigating a discussion about what happiness is.
Shall We Love You? is a short narrative that questions the connection between love and happiness. Can a subject, despite the tragedy that surrounds him/her, feel happy when he/she attains a fleeting moment where love is given and is received? Can a subject be called happy when fulfilling their loved one’s wishes means sacrificing their own? By letting Mako vocalize these questions in relation to happiness, Tanaka subtly highlights the non-existence of the harmonious sexual relationship. Yet, does such impossible harmony forecloses the possibility to attain a sliver of happiness?
Mei’s answers to the question what happiness means highlights the fleetingness of happiness as well as the role the of the imaginary in this feeling – happiness feeds itself on slivers of imagined harmony. Yet, can a different kind of happiness be attained? Haruka’s comments reveal that what Mei considers happiness are but mere surges of imaginary pleasure. But is the happiness of the prince merely imaginary pleasure?
The composition of Shall We Love You? is simple and straightforward. Just like her short Kanro (2023), Haruna Tanaka relies on one cut to stage her conversational narrative. This stylistic choice cuts away any kind of visual decorative fat to enable the spectator to focus on what the narrative is all about: the exchange of signifiers and the ebb and flow of the conversation between the three friends.
Shall We Love You? is a nice little heart-warming short that questions the connection between love and happiness. What makes Tanaka’s short so pleasant is quite simple: it is the way her compositional simplicity enables the spectator to float on the natural flow of the well-structured conversation.