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Must had cried for a thousand miles. Watching a movie on a 6" screen trapped in a coach seat at 30,000 ft high is usually a diversion not a pleasurable entertainment. But strangely enough, this simple 3 hankie movie is both engaging and moving.
A railway man works at the end of a desolated railway line, at the end of his career, at the end of his life. Nothing much happens. He does his job at the one man station faithfully. He greets the old familiar commuters with the station name, shovels snow off the platform, sends the train off with a ritualistic check list. He did this almost all his life with the same mechanical precision. He had a family once. His daughter died at a very young age and more recently his wife died.
The lonely widower had a few visitors on New Year Eve. And the news were not feastive. The little town, with the younger population migrating to bigger places, would probably die of old age. The rail line, facing declining traffic and increasing loss, will be closed. And he would have to vacate the station which was also his home for most of his life.
The director, Yasuo Furuhata, handles the story with sensitivity and humility. The occasional high camera or wide angle shots only accentuates the isolation. Cutting is excellent. Scenes are allowed to sustain poignancy without allowing distraction. Quick cuts are used to enforce the ritual routine with precision. The bare story line & minimal dialogue was not a handicap. The use of flashbacks in fact creates beautiful characterisation without unnecessary ornamentation. The old method of using colour tone to delineate time events was very effective here. In one particular scene shot from a static camera position flowed with a continuous action shifted over time just by the use of colour. Seamless, masterly.
How did veteran lead Ken Takakura win so much empathy for his part is really a mystery. No strut, quiet body and very little facial expression. Yet he involves us in the internal conflicts of the character. When he said "no regrets" over the choices he had made in his career, the price he had to pay and the sadness he felt is palpable.
Don't believe a word I say. Just go watch the movie.
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