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Japanese prison drama that leaves you with much to contemplate
Another day, another Australian Premier screening at the 2009 BigPond Adelaide Film Festival, this time the film, Vacation, the latest work from Japanese director, Hajime Kadoi.
If you had to describe the way the Japanese live based on what is depicted in their films, one word would have to sum it up. Spartan.
Vacation is more spartan than most Japanese films. Much of the drama unfolds inside the confines of the tiny cell of a prison inmate. In deed, Kaneda, the prisoner, is on death row for a crime that is never mentioned or explained. We learn nothing about what the man is thinking beyond the fact that he spends every day drawing landscapes in a large sketch book.
As the drama unfolds, we are introduced to Hirai, a prison guard who is marrying a beautiful young woman with a six year old son. His only means of getting time off for a honeymoon is to act as a "supporter" at Kaneda's execution. Again, we learn little about the woman and her child apart from the fact that her husband has apparently died.
Or has he? Why does the little boy spend almost all of his time drawing in a large sketch book? And why does the Hirai, the guard say "Sorry" to the boy following the execution of Kaneda, the prisoner? Could it possibly be because the woman was Kaneda's wife, and the boy his son? We can only guess at the answers. This is a darkly sombre film understandable given the subject matter filled with long silences, and beautifully framed shots.
According to the program notes, Vacation was a "break-out success" when it was released in Japan in 2008. This is director Kadoi's second feature film and it bodes well for the future of his career in particular, and for Japanese film in general.
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