Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Analysis of "There Was A Father", 00:24:00 - 00:29:59

There Was A Father, Scene 1606
Sometimes, we find some illogical coincidence among trivial matters in our daily life. If you see the old lady from the next block with her dog in the morning, it's a bad omen for the day, for example. But if you see a black cat living the next door before you start the car, you will be okey for the day. Maybe the collage kid in the coffee shop signals the bad weather in the afternoon, or something else. No logical connection. It's just a stupid coincidence you happened to notice. If you take a statistics for such matters, it's probably not even close to find correlation. You just imagine manufactured serendipity as a bit real. 

In this film, whenever the son feels content and joyous, and lies down on the floor, his father will announce further separation from him in the next scene. Here, at Scene 1606, the son feels content after the dinner with his father and lies down on tatami. Then, the father announces his departure to Tokyo to get a new job. They are already separated at this point, the son is in the boarding school and only able to see his father once in a while. When his father leaves for Tokyo, they will be able to see each other only once or twice in a year. The announcement spoiled the joy of the whole meeting. In the later scene near the end of the film, the grownup son and the father talk about the marriage, and the son goes upstairs, whistling and lying down. He probably feels more confident about his life and future, with possible marriage and building a family. Then the father has a violent stroke and goes into coma.

Is this coincidence? This is as if the son is punished for feeling carefree.

The father preaches the moral of being an independent man. As the conversation progresses, the son's expression goes pale and his head sinks down. I always find the space construction of this scene quite interesting. In this film (and probably in many other Ozu's films and other Japanese films), a set of the two rooms puctuated by "fusuma" inbetween is used effectively. The one room is in the foreground, and then the fusuma creates a sort of a incomplete curtain in the middle ground, and the next room is in the further back. The movement of the figures or the conversation between these two rooms create the depth and space. This is a standard device in many Japanese cinema, but Ozu uses this setting quite effectively. There is a scene in the very beginning of the film, where the two-room composition is utrilized to the greatest effect. In another scene, in the lodging during the school trip, the students are in foreground while the teachers are playing Go in the background.

There Was A Father, Scene 1716
The night scene in which the father and the son prepares for the fishing next day is very striking in comparison. The priest was in the next room, listening to the conversation between the father and the son. The sound of his mill signals the presence of a "stranger" or maybe a "mitigator" in the scene. Here, there is just a blank space, noone to interfere with the conversation taking place. What if there were someone in the next room? How about their mother/wife were present in the next room? Is the father going to leave the son behind to get a job in Tokyo anyway? This blank space in the back creates an uneasy void, which leaves the dissonance with no mitigation.

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