Michael Kerpan wrote:
The heroine is NOT "left behind" by her parents. I have no idea where you are getting this from. The parents get divorced, and the girl learns how to adjust to this.
In her dream, Renko's parents leave her behind in Lake Biwa. They recede into the distance while she remains alone, floating in the water by herself. That image was stronger for me than the film's urgent insistence afterwards that the girl had adjusted in a healthy way to her parents divorce. I'm not ignoring the fact that there is a happy ending tacked onto this film, but I'm saying that that ending is disingenuous to me, in light of the much more powerful imagery and mood that precedes it. It doesn't ruin the movie for me, but I felt that the film disengaged from its situation before the credits started to roll, and at that point it no longer felt authentic any longer.
As far as being abandoned by her parents in more of a real-world sense, well, I think that happens, too--as a subtext of the events the film covers. The action of the film constantly underlines the ways in which the parents have re-oriented themselves away from their life as a family, and how the girl is incapable of communicating her distress to them. The only life she has known is in that family, and suddenly it's as if no one wants to play that game anymore, except for her. So she talks to her parents as if they were still part of the same family; she reaches out for sympathy in what essentially becomes a dead language. Her parents do leave her that way. Certainly they still care about her, as their child, but they don't care for the family they had together, and the girl does. And there is no one to share her grief. She can't bring the family back together, but more than that, her deep need to remember and cherish the family she was born into is shared by nobody. So she is left alone.
Also, I find the film's argument--that Renko will adjust to her parents separation through a change in her attitude, a little acceptance from her friends and some plucky perseverance--not overwhelmingly convincing. No one I know whose parents were divorced has ever adjusted cleanly to it, announced it to everyone they knew, and then progressed unencumbered to some Arcadian new stage of their life. Rather, divorce is something people who experienced it as a child live with everyday--a state of mind that informs their decisions, opinions and outlook. So when I see the ending portions of the film I see the girl's smile and think about the melancholy pain behind it. I don't think she gets to be free of this--the film seems to me to be focused on one long, profound trauma for Renko--and the fact that the film's ending aims to cleave resolutely upbeat means to me that it forsakes the subtle mood it has held onto up until then. It's as if the filmmakers stop seeing Renko's genuine experience and opt to have people leaving the theater feeling better about themselves. Up until that point the film seems poised between the frustration and hurt in the girl's inner world and her amusing and precocious behavior in the outer world. But the ending closes off Renko's inner world in a way that rather tritely suggests: "well, she'll get over it. She's got a whole life ahead of her. She'll put her energy into being a happy, upbeat child, and we can close the book on this particular chapter of her story." But I don't think kids "get over" their parents divorces so swiftly and with such tidy precision. So my personal reaction to the film is to feel as if the coda to the film lacks credibility and compromises the delicate mood the rest of the film has held with such grace. That reaction is based on my experience of the events that occurred in the film, the images arranged within the picture, the pervasive mood the picture creates. My own perspective on the idea of divorce and its effects on young people definitely colors my reading of the film, but it doesn't substitute events and ideas that weren't in the picture for ones that were, thank you. And I don't see that influence of my personal experience to be substantially different from all the various assumptions audience members in Japan brought to the movie about the idea of divorce and its impact on children and on their society.
What's with the hostility, Kerpan? I don't get it.