Monday, May 31, 2010
The film is based on a much publicised event in the eighties which came to be known as " the affair of the four abandoned children of Sugamo". The news story has been transformed into a heart wrenching film (arguably the director's best) about childhood and the descent into horrifically primordial conditions when people without money are cut off from the sustaining grid of society. It reminds one of the fragility of what we term normal life, the shifting sands on which the fabric of our existence is based.
The four children, from different fathers and the same mother, are abandoned on a second floor flat. The mother's visits become less frequent till her final disappearance. All but the eldest are forbidden to leave the flat. At first there is money but the pennies run out fast. One by one the gas, electricity and water supply are cut off and at one stage we find one of the children eating paper. The children's longing to have a normal life and going to school recedes as a distant dream. Only on one occasion does the eldest Akira manage to smuggle the other three into the open world. Conditions within the flat deteriorate and more and more it starts resembling a garbage dump as the amenities on which urban life depends vanish. They must go out to the park to relieve themselves, but this part of the horror is only hinted by the director.Water must be filled from the public tap. And finally death takes it's toll on Yuki, one of the sisters, slumps from her chair. Akira, responsible and caring to start with, starts to crumble under the stress of the problems which pile up like waves, and seems to be about to give way as time passes. (The real life confinement lasted six months.)
And as the end credits roll, the children are seen on a lane with buckets of water, and hope nowhere in sight.
The director has captured every nuance of the harrowing tragedy with the utmost sensitivity and delicacy. His view is unsentimental and compassionate. Yagira as the eldest sibling touches the sublime in his restrained and mature perdormance, which earned him the Palme d'Or.