Eureka (2000) Poster


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Still waters run deep
gmwhite28 March 2005
I wouldn't give many films a score of ten unless they were truly outstanding, not just better, but in a whole different league. It is a grade reserved for the likes of (if I may indulge in a little subjectivity) Tarkovsky's Stalker;, Kitano's Hana-Bi, In the Mood for Love' by Wong Kar-wai, Dreyer's Passion of Joan of Arc, Ozu's Tokyo Story; and very few others. It is more than mere technical brilliance, top-class acting, superb plot or camera-work. What each of these films possesses is sheer humanity, simultaneously painful and life-affirming.

Eureka deserves to stand proudly in such company, for Eureka is a film that is so human it makes most others seem either shallow, over-wrought, or just pretentious. Eureka's plot is a simple, its action, dialog and soundtrack is sparse, camera movement is minimal. The sepia-toned photography is indeed a marvel to look at, and each of the actors performs with such restrained naturalness that they don't seem like performances at all. The result is a film that is less like a story being told, and more like an experience that is undergone or a journey shared. If there is any 'art' involved, it is in producing a film so fragile, yet so accessible, so desperately and painfully human out of material so grueling and alien to most of us fortunate viewers. And in this respect, the movement of Eureka mirrors that of the protagonists, the three traumatised survivors of a bloody bus high-jacking. They are a brother and sister,and the bus driver himself. In the wake of the tragedy, after some months of wandering and inactivity, they are drawn back together and set out on a bus.

As may be gathered, this film is very much about the aftermath of tragedy, about how certain experiences may mark one off from the rest of society, and how with silence, stillness and human company, and most importantly, the passing of time, some form of healing may be glimpsed. And it is just a glimpse. Though the final scene is indeed moving, there is no big payoff, anymore than there might be in life itself. There is only the artistry of the film itself to transfigure the story, and it does this with such quiet, unobtrusive sympathy, that to call it 'artistry' seems almost to malign it. I haven't seen Aoyama's other films, so I can't say whether he is destined for a Tarkovsky-, Dreyer- or Ozu-like elevation to the cinematic pantheon, but this film is a refreshing example of the kind of deep humanity of the best directors, the best artists, one that marks a perfect 10 off from all the rest.
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A beautiful meditation on the problem of evil
seandchoi27 February 2002
Eureka tells an enormously soul searching and moving story about three people's attempt to find meaning and purpose after experiencing a grizzly "busjack" (i.e. a bus hijack). Thus, its "subject matter" and the problem with which it deals is as old as philosophy itself: finding meaning and hope in a world where such senseless acts of violence and evil occurs. The three characters are Kozue (girl) and Naoki (boy), who are middle school aged siblings, and Makoto, who is the driver of the hijacked bus. They are eventually joined by the children's college-aged uncle, Akihiko (who also provides some memorable comedic moments).

There's not too much dialog in Eureka, as Kozue and Naoki are mute throughout much of the film (as a result of their trauma), but we can sense the confusing and searing emotions that lie just beneath their silence. Director Shinji Aoyama (wisely) lets the story and the characters unfold / develop at a very deliberate and slow pace, eschewing quick cutting and montage in favor of carefully crafted compositions within the vast cinemascope frame. Due to its realistic style, at times Eureka feels like a documentary.

Having said this, however, I can also say confidently that many will be put off by Eureka simply due to its epic running time (= 3 hours 37 minutes minus the credits). But let me just remark personally that although it _is_ long, Eureka definitely _feels_ a lot shorter (after it's over) than most 2 hour Hollywood films. (In fact, I don't think that Eureka would have worked as a "2 hour film"--for roughly the same reason that a "Reader's Digest" version of War and Peace wouldn't be as powerful as the full-length novel.) Don't get me wrong: Eureka is demanding (this is a "thinking person's" film), but it is not overly daunting. This is a daring film that asks a lot of its viewers, but which delivers much by way of emotional payoff (to those who persevere).

Eureka eventually turns into a kind of existential road movie, as the four characters try to "start over" by taking a trip on Makoto's new bus. And although I won't give it away, Eureka has an ending that is truly beautiful, quietly moving, and charged with a glimmer of hope.

Finally, although it is rarely heard in the film, the original musical score by Aoyama and Isao Yamada really adds emotional resonance whenever it plays. It's unforgettable and simultaneously beautiful and elegiac. Overall, I consider Eureka to be a great example of "humanistic" filmmaking in the tradition of Kurosawa and Ozu. Only time will tell whether or not it will be considered a masterpiece, but in my book Shinji Aoyama has created one of the truly unforgettable films of 2001.
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Could this be the best film of 2001?
Jaime N. Christley28 April 2001
Amazing film. The reviews posted - at the time of this writing - on the IMDb page are sad, because I don't think the writers were ready for what kind of movie it is. (Stephen Holden's pan in the New York Times is especially foolhardy and thoughtless.) It helped to have a little advanced word, in order to brace myself. As it stands, it should have defeated "Dancer in the Dark" at Cannes last year, handily. And if I see a better movie this year, it'll be something for the history books.

It's not for the faint of heart. It's three hours and thirty-seven minutes long, in black and white, and in Japanese. And it's very slow-moving. The cinematography is beautiful, but that may not be enough for folks to hack through nearly four hours.

But the extreme length and slowness is not unjustified. It opens with a horrifying, traumatic event that provides an emotional undercurrent that informs the remainder of the story, in much the same way as "Saving Private Ryan" did (let that not discourage the anti-Spielbergers), and as the film progresses, the event becomes a memory, part of the characters' and ours, too. And the slowness isn't really slowness - it's the playing out of events and interactions as they would happen in real time (the story spans a few months, I believe, perhaps even a year, and maybe more).

"What's the freaking story?" I hear you ask...well, here goes. The opening sequence, which will undoubtedly inspire comparisons and contrasts to "The Sweet Hereafter" (as will the entire film), shows the hijacking of a commuter bus by a businessman pushed over the edge. As the scene unfolds, he has already killed a few passengers, the police are surrounding the bus, and he has used newspapers to block all the windows.

Without revealing too much, the bus driver and two teens - a brother and a sister - survive the incident. The driver (Koji Yakusho, star of "Shall We Dance?" and "The Eel") is shaken deeply, and leaves his brother and parents to wander. The youths' mother runs off with another man, and their father dies soon after in an auto accident - with insurance payments, they can live, but there is no one to watch over them.

I could go into more of the plot - and most critics will, I'm sure - but that isn't really necessary. The key to the movie is that the events seem to be played out as they would in real life, and that the movie camera just "happens to be there" to catch them and tell the story. Sure, this is the goal of all narrative films, but with "Eureka," the process seems to have been reinvented and renewed. The film is longer than most, but not a moment is wasted; it's one of the most efficiently edited movies I've ever seen. Every shot, nuance, glance, spoken word, everything has a reason for being.

There are some who say the movie is too somber, too gloomy. It isn't really. It's somber, sure, but it doesn't strain for it. There is humor - deadpan, mostly - and great joy, too. And if you love great cinema, there is even greater joy!
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Survivors of a random act of violence struggle to continue living
filmnathan26 March 2005
It has been almost 6 years since I saw this film, yet this film can stick with me and still offer me things.

After a tragic incident of violence, a bus driver tries to find two other teen-aged survivors, a brother and sister. The sparse black and white camera work provide an insight into the bleak emotional landscape as they just stumble through as "walking dead". Having lost a father, I can identify with the characters. What is touching is the lack of communication and dialogue between the actors (whic includes the lead of the Japanese "Shall We Dance" ). Yet there is love and communication made even by just the thumping on bus walls. Words fail them.

The camera work is bleak yet stunning in composition and texture. Minimal yet just enough to feel the principals trying to find meaning in life. One can also speak of the Japanese economic downturn and the resulting introspective dramatic films such as Hirokazu's "After Life". If have experienced grief or if you'd like to find some insight into it, this may be a film. It seemed shorter than the four hours, but you are forewarned.
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Not to fear grandeur. Superb.
x-miner20 March 2002
I've seen EUREKA yesterday, and I really am impressed.

Along with those beautiful and sophisticated pictures in coloured black-and-white comes a great story; the movie takes both its time to roll out the plot and portrait the main characters. Each single scene is valuable, worth to be seen, contributes a lot to the whole, EUREKA is --despite its sheer enormity-- concentrated on the essentials and thus compact... and: the characters are authentic.

What else can I say? Go, see and feel it!
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aapp2227 February 2003
During its epic 3,5 hours of duration I managed to make some coffee, fry some eggs and let me assure you that I was a totally different man when it ended - It made me think about the real meaning of life, its beauty and subsequent horrors which we all go through at some point in our existence.

This is sophisticated film-making at its best.
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Several days and films further on, I still cannot get this one out of my mind
jandesimpson18 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Every once in a while I have a cinematic experience so original and compelling that it dominates the days that follow to the virtual exclusion of all else. I have had such feelings twice in recent months from Japanese cinema, first with Koreeda's wondrous "After Life" and now with Aoyama's "Eureka". Not every film that affects me in this way is a masterpiece like "After Life". Some like "The Piano Teacher" melodramatically rely on their power to disturb. I suppose "Eureka" comes somewhere between, lacking perhaps the formal perfection of a recent masterwork such as the Vietnamese "At the Height of the Summer" but enveloping me in a way that I found far more engrossing. How else to explain two viewings on consecutive days of a film of enormous length (3.5 hours) that I was never once tempted to fast forward! The answer must lie partly in the mesmerizing power of the story it tells, partly with the involvement I feel with the characters and partly in the way the director has created a highly personal vision of a complete world. Basically "Eureka" is about the traumas of three survivors of a bus hijacking, the driver and a teenaged brother and sister pair of passengers, that has resulted in the massacre of all the others involved. After a prelude depicting the cathartic event that triggered their emotion turmoil we home into their lives two years further on. The bus driver, unable to find any resolution to his mental and physical state through involvement with his own family, seeks out the youngsters whose family life has been ruined with a view to expiating his guilt as a survivor by helping them in whatever way he can. Eventually he buys a bus on which they can embark on a journey possibly to escape what has happened to them, a journey with most of the odds stacked against it as he is in failing health, a parasitic intruder has to be taken on board in the form of the teenagers' basically unsympathetic cousin and their travels take place against a disturbing background of several killings of young women. Thus after nearly two hours into "Eureka" we are experiencing a road movie with a destination so hazily defined it is hard to believe it will ever be reached. Only two of the protagonists make it to a conclusion where the soft almost sepia-toned photography suddenly bursts into colour suggesting a transforming redemption. On a first viewing I was puzzled by the denouement of the serial killings which seemed psychologically if not physiologically outlandish but I have come to accept this as one tragic consequence of trauma in a masterly work that so successfully fuses elements of great films as diverse as "L'Avventura" and "Kings of the Road" with something of the singleminded gaze of that greatest of living directors, Theo Angelopoulos.
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Inexplicable Cinema
kruttik-a21 April 2006
Probably the only thing that has happened to me which i cannot express in words. Maybe thats what the director 'Shiniji' felt and instead of trying to express is it in heavy-Hollywood-dialogs syndrome, he chose the absolutely pinnacle and quintessential form of communication- ...... If you are looking for the definition of that art, you wouldn't just find,because it doesn't exist. You have to see this movie to venture into the world which is way beyond cinema and story-telling.

Each character has just defied the very fabric of artificial situations that are cinematic and have stepped into the horizons of real world much real that what we see now. Shiniji's brilliance is not only in the way he picked up the situation and silhouetted it with ever so beautiful backdrop but also in that fact that he hasn't compromised on the lines of letting the movie talk with its aura of silence. Many great directors would have been tempted to use the brilliant characters of Naoki and Kozue to speak up their frustration(a usual ploy in American and European Cinema) to reassure their directorial capabilities, but Shiniji's belief in the movie and its characters was much more intense than both his audience and himself.

Now a little about the movie. Eureka centrally addresses the condensed emotions of people who go through a catastrophe which might not be fatal physically but is absolutely draining mentally. The eventual darkness of body and mind that leads such people to imagine heinous crimes like murder without knowing the true essence of its legitimacy. It deals with complete disintegration of human psyche to unwanted darkness. But it also shows the inevitability of human victory of life and happiness over death and darkness. Eureka tours the human road-map of complete disillusionment and back to reclaim its lost grounds.

Naoki and Kozue though being kids display a true situation that can drive even kids to craziness. Though not being dumb, words have not been their respite. The killing emptiness within woven with their apathetic vocals drilled them to their core and they became immune to popular practice of existence. Talking and involving with others were a waste, for nothing in the world could bring them what they lost. And if you ask what they lost, they cant describe it, I cant describe it, and neither can Shiniji. We can only feel it.

Makoto together with the kids was also a subject to the catastrophe. It hit him so hard mentally that he lost himself to isolation. But he regrouped and returned to his home just to find that things have changed around him, he could not justify but accepted it because he could find himself a reason to it. He visits the kids and they form a small family in which no one has to say that they care for each other, they just have to feel.

I can go on for this movie for the rest of my life but if you are alive you will see it.
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Long, challenging, but well worth the effort
runamokprods19 February 2011
Hailed as a masterpiece by some, and a near one by others, I liked it quite a bit, and never felt bored in spite of it's nearly 4 hour running time. I was quite moved – to the point of tears - by the end.

It looks and feels like no other movie I've seen, shot in a shifting sepia tone, with very little dialogue, and long silent takes. It's an intimate epic. Sort of a Japanese version of a Terrence Malick film.

A young brother and sister, and a bus driver are the only survivors of a random bus-jacking by a madman. The three retreat from the world. But two years later the bus driver seeks out the brother and sister – living alone and mute despite their youth – and the long, slow process of healing begins.

As much as I liked a lot of it, certain plot twists felt clunky or heavy handed, as did some of the dialogue. A movie so based in unspoken emotion loses something when the themes suddenly become too literal, in word or action. But, those are things that might bother me less on a second viewing, when I was more prepared for this unique, odd, challenging film.
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Err, yes it's too long
simon_booth21 July 2002
Some people have a disliking for Japanese cinema because the movies tend to be slow paced, minimalistic. If you're one of them - skip EUREKA is all you need to know. The movie moves along at a snail's pace on Sunday - at 90 minutes most movies are just coming to their explosive and or dramatic climax, but at that point I was still wondering what Eureka was about. 2 hours later the movie finally finishes - and I was still wondering what it was all about.

EUREKA is a movie of epic length, that raises other challenging questions like "Why is it 3.5 hours long?", "Why is it black and white?", "Is this all going somewhere?" and "Is it nearly finished yet?". Clearly director Shinji Aoyama wants his movie to make us think. And in 3.5 hours of black and white imagery and minimal dialogue, your mind certainly does have ample opportunity to wander.

Maybe I should have checked the "Director's Statement" that is included on the UK DVD before watching the movie. Then I'd have known what he was trying to say, and could have spent my time deciding if he said it effectively instead. Whether that would have been more fun or less I don't know though.

Not to say that I didn't enjoy watching EUREKA - for most of the run time I did. It's very well acted, has some good cinematography and is generally quite unusual. I'd have preferred it to have been shorter though, or had more going on - even colour photography would have helped to keep my attention on the screen with a little less effort.

I do think it's a good movie though, but... it just didn't need to be 3.5 hours to make its point or build its characters. Or maybe it did need 3.5 hours to do that, but Shinji Aoyama used his time badly - because at the end I still didn't really have a grasp on who the characters were 'deep down', or what the point of sharing their story with us was. Perhaps it's just that it's a movie aimed for better minds than mine to truly appreciate though. Certainly the length and style are going to keep any hopes of mainstream appreciation at bay.
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Monochrome masterpiece
kerpan10 September 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Eureka (Shinji Aoyama, 2000) (spoilers)

Together with "Gaichu", this film shows Aoi Miyazaki to be one of the finest child actresses of all time. (Having now achieved teen "idol" status in Japan, will she fritter away her talent?). Her character is virtually wordless in this over 3.5 hour long film, which makes her accomplishment even more impressive.

The film tells of a brother and sister, who along with a bus driver (played by Koji Yakusho, perhaps Japan's best actor today), are the sole survivors of a bus-jacking and mass killing. Not only the children are traumatized by the incident, but the notoriety and disruption leads to the collapse of the family. Left alone after the death of their father, the children withdraw from the world. Yakusho, whose own life has fallen apart as well, also flees -- to parts unknown -- for almost a year. He returns to find (not surprisingly), his wife has left the extended family home, to return to work in a big city. He and the children are drawn together by their mutual catastrophe -- and he (along with an older cousin of the kids) try to draw them out of their shell. Matters are complicated by a string of serial killings taking place in their area. Yakusho buys a beat-up bus -- and carries them out of the scene of their unhappy past, but it isn't so easy to escape the shadow the past cast over them.

The acting here is superb (and not just that of Aoi Miyaki and Koji Yakusho) -- and the monochromatic cinematography is equally wonderful. For me, the 3.5 hours passed quite swiftly.
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A fine line between magnificent and annoying
rooprect26 August 2007
If, as Nigel said in Spinal Tap, there's a fine line between clever and stupid, then this movie shows that there's a fine line between artistic and tedious.

For me this movie teetered on the edge for three hours before unfortunately toppling into the "tedious" pile. I think it was that awful, experimental noise music which was inserted at a most inappropriate time which killed it for me. But there were many other close calls which could have proved fatal as well.

First let's talk about the colour. Just because a movie is shot in b&w doesn't mean that it is magically elevated to artistic status. On the contrary, I feel that (modern) b&w film must earn its right to be b&w. This movie failed in that department. There is no use of shadows, sharpness or contrast which are the primary appeals of the monochrome medium. Instead, the whole movie has a soupy, fuzzy, bleached appearance, like an old VCR tape that you left on the dashboard for too long.

Obviously the director was trying to make a statement with this visually unappealing use of browns. If the movie were any shorter than 3.5 hours, then I could have forgiven it. But unfortunately it didn't make the cut.

Next let's talk about theme. Sure, it has a compelling theme (sort of like the other Japanese film from the same year "Suicide Club") dealing with the contagious nature of evil. I do have to give this film applause for handling the subject much more poetically than the pop trash flick Suicide Club. Yet I have to turn around and fault the director for dragging the same message out for too long. The effect was a watering down of an otherwise powerful message. Again, we tip from magnificent to annoying.

Lastly I'll mention some of the cinematic techniques and scene compositions. In a word: wow. There are a few shots which must've taken 100 takes to get them right, and with that I am impressed. But you have to realize that I am impressed simply as a film nerd who looks for that sort of thing. Beyond the gimmickery of a "wow" shot to impress the film nerds, I didn't see much poetic meaning to these indulgent scenes. Quite often they went nowhere. Unlike Tarr (Werckmeister harmóniák) or Bresson (Pickpocket) or even Hitchcock (Rope) who used long scenes to build momentum to a miniature climax each time, this director uses long scenes which ultimately lose coherence and end on a totally meaningless note. Another reviewer compared this film to Tarkovsky, and I have to say that's right on the mark; both directors share the same annoying tendency to film things that don't necessarily relate to the work but are simply neato things to do (like Tarkovsky's obsession with zooming in on peoples' earlobes for 2-3 minutes).

I love Japanese cinema. I love the challenging philosophy of films like Rashômon, the poetic complexity of films like Shiki-Jitsu, and above all, the focused clarity of films like Warai No Daigaku. Japanese cinema is art with a backbone. Unfortunately this film lacks that backbone which has been the defining characteristic since the days of Kurosawa. Without it, the film becomes just another desultory, rambling, impressionistic soup.

Unless you're a big fan of Tarkovsky, Paradjanov and other ambling Russian directors, I advise you to avoid this film. If, on the other hand, you like your films orchestrated and carefully designed à la Kurosawa, Orson Welles, Robert Bresson, or even the latter day greats Wim Wenders and Takeshi Kitano, then skip this and instead spend your 3.5 hours trying to hunt down a copy of Kwaidan by Kobayashi.
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The Searchers Meets the Sixth Sense, Minus the Ghosts and the Indians
bobwestal-220 May 2001
The above tag is a bit glib -- to be honest I'm still processing this stunning film.

Yep, it's long, not getting around that. And there's precious little dialogue -- but that can be a good thing. I also have to say right here that I usually have very little patience for the sort of film that is more akin to painting -- which is how some of the other reviewers seem to classify this movie. Films that have bored me silly include "The Thin Red Line" and everything I've seen by Antonioni, who I find more or less completely detestable.

On the other hand, I love Wenders at his best. So what's the difference?

It may be that, even more than Wenders, this film is utterly sincere in its convictions. Antonioni's films are about people without the capacity for love or joy. Like in Wenders films, this is a film about people learning to, perhaps, regain that capacity. For that, I can take the somber mode (especially since there are some lovely comic moments).

I could go on (and just may, elsewhere), but as I said, I'm still processing the movie. I can only add that I nearly broke down crying about five or six times and that the opening sequence left with a reaction I can't really describe, only that I felt I had a taste of what post-traumatic stress might feel like.

More than gorgeous.
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Life as Trip Back
frankgaipa24 August 2002
Must be over a year. Rooms of the house, locations, the characters and their mute-and-not choreography remain with me, but somewhat ajumble. The violence that precipitates and defines "Eureka's" story feels random. The shooter's apolitical. In the limited frame of the film, he's self-motivating, whatever his back story. So comparisons to 9/11's strike at politically symbolic targets, or even to the Aum incidents, seem facile. Don't be frightened by the film's length, unless you're just not a film person. In comparison, Jean Eustache's "La maman et la putain" lasts a lifetime. Maybe because its Paris no longer quite exists, leaving "Putain's" world is like being wrenched from a dream. A dream interrupted is a trip out with no trip back. Make any unfamiliar journey and return, especially on foot, the trip back feels shorter because, even by their reverse side, you know the landmarks. The world's so homogenized now, no matter where you live no shot in "Eureka" can be unfamiliar. "Eureka's" all trip back. Everything registers. Time rushes. By placing color exactly where he did in this black and white film, Aoyama tells me he knows this.

I shouldn't stick my neck out on Japanese stuff, but the kids' young uncle Akihiko's name sounds Autumnal for its "aki."

"Eureka" contains Koji Yakusho's most successfully complex role. A touchpoint for this performance is his more simply written character in Kiyoshi Kurosawa's "License to Live."
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Japanese masterpiece
manossg6 April 2010
Artistically speaking, this movie is excellent.

The b&w suits perfectly the film, the camera work and the cinematography are superb, the acting (especially Yakusho Koji's) is great...

The movie misses 10/10 because of: a. The duration. I don't have any problems with 3-4 hour films, but I believe Eureka could have expressed all that it was meant to express in 2 and a half hours tops. b. The soundtrack. Very amateurish compared to the rest of the movie. Silence/ambiance would have suited the film better. At least it is used very economically so that it doesn't get (very) annoying.

A must watch.
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A long film that will reward the viewer - mild spoilers
kdufre008 May 2001
Warning: Spoilers
It is hard to write a review of "Eureka" without mentioning its extreme running time. At 3 hours and 37 minutes, director Shinji Aoyama takes his time to tell a story of new beginnings following an indefinite and stagnant period of trauma. Given the subject matter, however, "Eureka" would not have the same effect had it been told in 2 hours. This is a movie about 3 characters each in different stages of a recovery process, and to afford them less time to do so would be unfair.

"Eureka" opens with two teenage siblings, Kozue and Naoki (played by real-life sister and brother Aoi Miyazaki and Masaru Miyazaki), boarding a bus. Right after the last of the opening credits, the scene jump cuts to a jarring shot of a blood-stained hand, the camera moving away to reveal a corpse in the middle of a parking lot with the bus in the background. Within a few moments, we realize that one of the passengers has taken the bus driver and Kozue and Naoki hostage, after having killed the other passengers, and before being gunned down himself by a SWAT team.

This traumatic incident renders both children mute and the bus driver, Makoto (played by Koji Yakusho), restless and nomadic. 2 years pass and Makoto seeks out Kozue and Naoki, after finding out that their father has died and their mother has abandoned them, leaving them to fend for themselves. The children permit Makoto to stay with them and he fulfills the role of father figure. They are later joined by a college-age cousin, Akihiko (played by Yoichiro Saito), checking up on the children during a semester break. Akihiko's presence provides "Eureka" with interesting chracter dynamics, given the fact that up until his arrival, Makoto does not have anyone to talk to since the two children are mute. What follows is an existential road trip once Makoto decides to get his life back on track by purchasing a small bus and inviting the kids on a journey of promise and healing.

Probably the best asset of "Eureka" is the camera placement. This movie is a series of long takes and long shots. There are few, if any, close-up shots of the characters. Normally, I find this style of film-making challenging and frustrating since it places us away from the characters, but it works very well here. The long shots do place us "away" from the characters but at the same time we are given enough room to interpret what we see on the screen. It is a different kind of documentary technique than the more close-up and sharply edited documentary style present in "Amores Perros," (another movie from this year that I consider to be a masterpiece), but it is no less effective here in "Eureka". It is also mandatory that I mention the lush black-and-white cinematography as well.

"Eureka" certainly demands the viewer to keep his or her attention span intact. The long takes of each scene as well as the long periods without dialogue take some getting used to, but eventually (hopefully) the viewer will find himself/herself in the film's rhythm. Trust me, the viewer will be rewarded by slowly being transported into the characters' world. After spending 3 hours and 37 minutes with Makoto, Akihiko, Kozue, and Naoki, they will feel like new and dear acquaintances.
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Königin der Herzen9 April 2001
Whoa, I do not expect anything better than this for 2001. The great cinematography, the wonderful musical score and the outstanding performance by Koji Yakusho make Eureka deeply touching. Contemporary Japanese cinema is definitely the most exciting world wide. Check this out...
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a captivating drama
Mnemosyne-97 May 2003
the first thing i heard about this movie was that it would be a 3.5 hours long black and white movie with a minimum of dialogues. that was all i needed to know to impatiently anticipate seeing Eureka. it took a while and it only showed in three cinema's here in belgium, in one cinema each month for they had only one copy of the film, so when i heard it played i found myself lucky to finally see it with a showing rate of once a day only five days/week. a bit surprised but then again could've guessed not a lot of people where in the (very)small theatre. as for most movies i anxiously await i held my breath, but this one captured me from the start. ok, better said: after the first scene is over you get involved with the three survivors of the bus-jacking, the driver and two kids - who never speak again from that day on and seem to live on their own (no one seems to know what ever happened to their parents... which is great, i love certain things that aren't explained in the movies,). but now i give away more than i like when writing about movies (this thing about the parents isn't even that important to the story, hence the give-away of this detail) *also, note that i saw this movie in september 2001 and never found it again to see or buy (if anyone has it and wants to get rid of it...)* the film is split up in three major parts. the first describes the fall and 'resurrection' of the driver, the second focusses on the children and how the three meet up again and try to bring their lives back into balance, the last part takes you on a final road trip through the country in a bus turned camper as a final solution type of thing. the last seconds hold a nice little surprise! (k, not a big o' deal - allthough it has this particular distinct meaning,wich i found quite amusing! -and will b lost for 99% of the viewers- the meaning that is) i know the duration was a turn of for a lot of people and i guess i can understand why most find Eureka boooring, but people like that never ever see these things in their whole perspective. if this movie were to've been made more up-tempo'd, it would've lost it's charm toootally. stories like these won't be told just that easily, it has to be absorbed in it's entirety, so one can feel every emotion intended, also gives you a bit time to think about things as you see them unfold instead of afterwords when you have to recollect the whole movie (which i did anyway but hey) this is a must-see-movie when being a moviejunk (especially the anti-hollywood-cinemaniacs) are u an emotional type? with eyes for beauty? see it.
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Amazing three-hour minimalistic adventure
mevmijaumau5 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Shinji Aoyama's Eureka concerns three people branded by a traumatic event (a busjack) who then try to cope with their issues by reliving the path with a new bus. The protagonists are two siblings, Naoki and Kazue, mute ever since the accident, and the bus driver Makoto. Eureka is a fascinating but exhausting experience - it lasts over 3,5 hours.

It is shot in a sepia tone for its entirety, except for the very final shot which is in color. In the end, Makoto and Kazue overcome their scarred past and start a new life. The scene where Kazue throws away some shells named after the most influential people in her life (thus making way for rebirth) is followed by an enlightenment of sorts, both in the terms of transition from sepia to color and from traumatic stress to a better life. This may be why this movie is called Eureka.

The flow of the movie is very meditative and memorable. There are many moments of pure silence and of little to no action. It moves very slow, but has a hypnotic ring to it and you can't help but feel drawn to it after being confused in the beginning. Aoyama uses multiple repetitive or cyclical patterns all throughout; the seesaw-resembling thing by the window constantly going up and down, Makoto turning the lamp on and off continuously, or the scene where he drives around and around on his bike with Naoki. It all seems very realistic and like a window to someone's life, and in the end makes you feel a lot more for the characters, not to mention the acting is excellent as well. The performances are just incredible.

Aoyama's movie contains many panoramic shots which stay still for a long time and follow the characters around, but there are also many recurring motifs like bottles of water or the starry decoration hanging by the rear bus window. Some shots are unforgettable, like the one at the beginning, when the busjacker points the gun at the children with his dying breath. The occasional scenes with strong dramatic value are made even more powerful by the movie's slow pace. The music isn't always there, but when it is, it fits the scenes beautifully with its celestial, atmospheric quality.

Eureka does go on for a bit too long, but it is truly one of the most unique cinematic experiences you'll encounter. It's a film well worth watching if you have time to kill or are into slow-paced movies.

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Beautiful but too much of too little
Nooblethenood27 February 2011
There is probably little to be said about this than has already been said. Eureka is definitely a very beautiful film. The performances of the cast, camera, director, and sound designer are all genuinely flawless. Absolutely nothing is amiss in these elements of this elegiac work of cinema, including the fulsome, meaningful beauty of its story.

However, one major issue remains, and one much less major. The minor one is the incidental music - plinking, plonking atonality that crops up rarely in the film, but that is completely synthesised and not interesting, original or helpful. What a shame that one so simple aspect was so poorly produced.

The major issue, of course, is the length. At three-and-a-half hours, this is a massive stretch even for the most engaged viewer. The film undoubtedly was at its best about an hour-and-a-half in, when the main character is getting to know the two strange, orphaned children, with whom he shares a traumatic past experience. There are moments of depth, colour and real warmth to this section of the film, which were largely lost later on.

In the end, while this film is beautifully rendered from end to end, and largely dramatically satisfying, at some point the director and editor between them just lost a sense of the movement of the whole piece, and got obsessed with fully fleshing out every aspect of every reflection of every character. This is still a niggle more than a catastrophic issue, but it does reduce the impact of the dramatic conclusions.

I'm not sure, honestly, where this film fits, but if you are looking for a very long, immersive experience of visual beauty and a rich, steady, poetic form of film, it's undeniably excellent.
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nunculus6 May 2001
In the aftermath of a shootout on a crosstown bus, the driver, no

longer able to cope with "normal life," moves in with a brother and

sister who are among the only other survivors of the massacre--two little kids who mysteriously live off insurance

payouts from their dead father. (Convenient, eh?) The driver buys a

sort of antique Winnebago--a positive, rewritten version of the

death-bus--and the trio set out on the open road to heal

themselves. Or forget. Or something--whatever their plan is, the

movie teases it out for three hours and forty minutes.

Audiences take the longueurs, the austere black-and-white

compositions, and the aura of gelid, Antonioni-ish alienation very

seriously. And highbrow critics treat its torpor as a sign of mastery.

But for all its spooky elongation (a shot of a cop tensely clicking his

Bic goes on for two minutes), this is boringly familiar, KING OF

HEARTS-type stuff about how the banal workaday world refuses to

hold its walking wounded to its breast. Its lyricism recalls the

dullest, grayest, dingiest moments of Wim Wenders' so-called

road movies. And it features a shockingly unveiled secret serial

killer whose identity is so cockamamie it makes Bruno Dumont's

L'HUMANITE look sensical.
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Life In A Fist Of Film
VideoKidVsTheVoid11 October 2006
A film beyond film; the rarest transfusion of worlds – a step thru the rift of definition, into the realms of the sublime. Poetry of the unknown chasms of existence – perfect reflections of the ghost and its flight. A journey, a search, beyond incidents, externalizations, time and space; emotions striving to hold on, to decode something of the abstraction of consciousness; of reality; of life (both on the basic primordial level and on the modern plateau). Aoyama has achieved a transcendtion of form, function, media, matter and expression; as if all the years of brooding had channeled into these three hours and forty minutes.

A deal no doubt must have been struck with time and space themselves; to allow themselves to be exposed and laid bare before the camera – to be carved out of each other and shaped and molded by human hands; sculptures made of moments and distance. Claustrophobia with the known universe. Movement coerced into a go-between, relaying messages from the outer rims.

Intensity is felt with every frame; the intensity of ambiguousness – the intensity of simply living thru time, at existing at the hands of the confusion of existence. Characters sift thru a war of existence. The individual; the self contained star drifting thru space, and the rootless feeling permeating the universe are here held open and dissected as if the individual's confinement were a show of fireworks. Isolation comes as natural drift, as if expected as wind thru the leaves of a tree, never forced or romanticized. Communication is reborn, and language held at bay; its deceiving tendrils plucked from their hold within the brain. The irrational is once again confronted face to face instead of by way of masked handshake in the dark. Open spaces and landscapes externalize the internal scope; playing out a disenchanted dream of reality. Roads, buildings, yards, construction sites, parking lots, fields, sky; all seem to drip with answers beyond their forms. They remain still, but hold the longing out with both hands; one step away from the void.

The world has been caught, stripped to the bone; rendered poignant in sepiatone colored fever-(day)dreams (surely here, and to a fishier degree in von Trier's The Element Of Crime (1984), now proved to be the color of at least some part of heaven). Modernity has been deflated, time and space orchestrated, society has been shown limbless, history has retreated to the wastelands, and man is man as he has always been. Aoyama has pierced the skin; broken thru to the inner chambers. The surface has been dissolved and only the hopeful depths remain.
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Cultural catatonia
federovsky25 August 2009
There are several fine ideas here: that a shocking, arbitrary incident can taint you in the eyes of yourself and society; that a whole swathe of your life can be spent in a sepia daze; and that a colourful epiphany can release you. This is entirely a concept film buoyed up by these ideas.

A successful effort? Not really. It is shot in a bleached pinkish wash which either gives it an ultra-cool arty look - or a corny Adobe Premiere filter look - and the gimmick may well account for the film's length - a lot of shots were probably included that would normally have been ditched for being too dull.

The 3 1/2 hours length was designed to let it slowly seep into you. Problem was, it had made all its points, done all its seepage, in the first half hour and I'm not sure if the extra three hours added anything at all except the opportunity for you to build up a catalogue of peeves.

Aoyama loves the device of showing you something you can't make head or tail of until some time later when it is explained. It's important not to be too obvious in a film, but this trick, done repeatedly, can make it hard work. On top of that, many of the silent, almost motionless scenes we are shown seem interchangeable with almost anything of our own choice. There are far too many arbitrary, meaningless scenes.

And the psychology is frail. I didn't feel the traumatic near-death incident at the beginning (a bus-jacking) was anywhere near enough to make two children stop speaking and turn someone into an improbable serial killer. So I didn't have essential sympathy for the characters and that was fatal. Being so determined to be arty, the film didn't allow us to get to know them properly - no close ups, only an impassive wide angle that physically alienates. There were also periods, especially in the early part of the film where I had trouble telling one character from another as scenes switched erratically between two families.

And one final thing I hated: a character had an annoying hacking cough for much of the film - I was furious when it finally turned out that there was no significance to it at all. Possibly the actor really did have a bad cough so they built it in.

Basicaly dull, and including some big mistakes (like the ultra-wide format), I only give it a special-mention certificate for being different.
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A hijacking survivor's drama
wickedmikehampton15 December 2020
'Eureka' is a three-and-a-half-hour indie cult crime drama.

The survivors of a deadly bus hijacking, siblings turned mute and the insomniac driver, go on a road trip to try rediscover meaning to their lives. They're joined by a cousin.

The little girl is played by Aoi Miyazaki who would go onto become the adult love interest in the admirable drama, 'The Great Passage'.

However, the acting was mostly left to the driver.

It should've had an hour shaved off but I didn't mind. My patience became the second road trip.

It's shot so it felt like a 70s movie except for the fact it was done in sepia (which is simultaneously harsher and more plain than black and white). I can imagine a David Fincher remake, in the style of 'Zodiac'.
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A masterpiece that's far from black and white
sitenoise20 October 2009
After three and a half slow paced, sepia toned hours experiencing emotional pain and anguish I still watched the credits roll. This film starts off with a man hijacking a bus and killing most everyone on it for no apparent reason. The driver and two middle school kids survive, and we spend the rest of the film watching them live with it. We watch them fall asleep watching television and other mundane matters but there is not a wasted frame in this film. There are a remarkable number of plot points to keep things moving forward but it still feels like suspended animation, like time is moving inward instead of along. Koji Yakusho is sublime and Aoi Miyazaki, at like twelve years old--and without saying a word for nearly the entire runtime--is mesmerizing. This film is a masterpiece, a journey exploring the myriad layers of trauma, of metaphorical death, and what three people endure on a path to renewal and emergence from a world of silent suffering. It will take your breath away.
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