Drama, Films, Japan, Reviews

The Ravine of Goodbye

Tatsushi Omori’s (A Whispering of Gods, A Crowd of Three) film takes an interesting look at both the broken and the flawed…

Director Tatsushi Omori’s breakthrough feature film, The Ravine of Goodbye (さよなら渓谷, Sayonara Keikoku) deservingly received the Jury prize at the 35th Moscow International film festival back in June. Since the release of A Whispering of Gods (2005) and A Crowd of Three (2010), Omori has become known for his explorations through the outrageous and psychotic actions of mankind. Taking on the task of adapting Shuichi Yoshida’s novel, Omori collaborates with scriptwriter Ryo Takada to delve into such a subject yet again. The end result is something truly powerful.

It’s early morning, the curtains are drawn and a couple are busy beneath the sheets. Their lovemaking is rudely interrupted by a horde of reporters, trying to get a statement from their next-door neighbour, who has been accused of murdering her son. When reporter, Watanabe (Nao Omori, Vibrator, Ichi the Killer, Tokyo!) gets tipped off that the accused was having an affair with the guy next door, Shunsuke Ozaki (Shima Onishi, The Red Army, Caterpillar, Petrel Hotel Blue) he soon realises that this investigation stems deeper than first anticipated. On the surface we have a seemingly happy couple, with a very healthy sex life. Virtually the first half an hour of this is made up of sex; scene after scene, which may unnerve some viewers. However after watching the film in its entirety, it is evident that this is needed for plot development. As the investigation chips away at their façade, we gradually see them crack on screen. Watanabe soon makes the connection that it was Kanako (Yoko Maki, The Grudge, Battle Royale II, Like Father, Like Son), Ozaki’s wife who initially told the police about the affair. As the investigation unfolds, it is revealed that during his youth Ozaki’s took part in a gang-rape of a 17 year old classmate, Natsumi. Naturally, they consult Kanako on the issue and the answers she gives are alarming.

The Ravine of Goodbye is a whirlwind tale of a victim still trying to overcome such an event, after so many years. Natsumi’s journey is one of trauma, pain and sorrow. Her life becomes an endless spiral of devastating events after this traumatic experience, leaving her trusting no-one. After hearing that Natsumi tried to kill herself, Ozaki finds the guilt too much to bear and desperately seeks her forgiveness. Only for them both to finally realise that this, “will never be over”. Watanabe’s efficient investigating (or persistent should I say) acts as a necessary catalyst when it comes to revealing the hidden truth. The underlying reality, explains the presence of sex scenes throughout the first half of the film. The passion and urgency we witness illustrates the want of being desired by someone, being wanted by someone for who you really are. Something the victim never thought she could have; yet strangely she manages to find refuge with her perpetrator. From what we see on screen, she doesn’t think herself worthy enough, or understood by anyone, except the person who violated her in the first place.

As the drama unravels, the leading actors exceed expectations when it comes to bringing heartfelt and emotional performances. Yoko Maki transforms from the fragile, unstable creature she was forced to turn into, to the embodiment of empowerment. Meanwhile, Shima Onishi plays the obedient follower with eyes that exude guilt. Nao Omori, brings that light-hearted comical approach that gives the viewer much needed respite through the darkness and heavy narrative. Although the film is well executed, I personally really felt the two-hour duration; perhaps due to the artistic approach the camera work embodies. In the main it consists of long, lingering takes that compliment the awkwardness developing on screen, but unavoidably make the length all the more noticeable. Additionally, the film lacks a prominent soundtrack apart from the sporadic contributions from composer Misahiro Hiramoto, once more illustrating the bleak downbeat intended feel.

Interestingly, the 18th Century French definition of ravine, translates as a ‘violent rush’, later used to define a deep narrow valley, those walls have been eroded by water. Conveniently putting things into perspective – Natsumi is the gorge and her surroundings are the walls of water wearing her down, day by day. As Mark Schilling from The Japan Times delightfully puts it; these characters walk the “fine line between love and hate” – just be prepared to feel empty after such a weighty story! Tatsushi Omori’s direction doesn’t hold back when it comes to the shocking reality of such events and takes us down the slow road of recovery through flashbacks. Whatever you take from the film as a whole, The Ravine of Goodbye is a brutally honest depiction of cause and effect.

The Ravine of Goodbye screened as part of 57th London Film Festival 2013.

About the author

Gloria Daniels-MossGloria Daniels-Moss Gloria Daniels-Moss
A former student and graduate of Canterbury Christ Church University where she had the pleasure to study English and most importantly Film! Her main love for Japanese Cinema comes from seeing Spirited Away when it was screened at Pinewood Studios for Club 7 at the mere age of 11... more
Read all posts by Gloria Daniels-Moss

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