Fri, Feb 04, 2005 - Page 17 News List

Four young and lonely souls revisited

Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda offers another brooding tale in his tender movie `Nobody Knows', but Taiwan's filmmakers opt for suspense and horror as the new year starts

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Rene Liu.


Before taking a long escape for the Lunar New Year holidays, it might be a good idea to watch a movie that will calm your heart and make you more sympathetic. This weekend's new release, Nobody Knows, is a solid piece you should not miss.

Acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda is known for his brooding dramas with intriguing topics, such as After Life (1998), an imaginative film set in an afterlife where the deceased worry about life and death, memory and oblivion. This latest film, Nobody Knows, is based on a true story about four abandoned children who quietly lead isolated lives in an apartment in Tokyo.

The film's opening looks ordinary but turns bizarre. The mom, Keiko, moves to a new house with her oldest son, Akira (Yagira Yuya). Inside the Louis Vuitton suitcases are three other kids, ages five to 10, each with different fathers whose identities are not revealed.

Keiko makes the rule that the kids are not allowed to go out. Only Akira gets to leave to buy groceries and take care of the siblings. The mom is always out, working late or seeing boyfriends.

In director Koreeda's clean and -- as usual -- brooding lens, the drama of the story slowly and quietly unfolds.

One day the mom leaves some money and a note asking Akira to take care of his siblings. The four children begin their lives about which "nobody knows."

The mom suddenly comes back on a winter night to give each kid some presents and immediately pack and leave. She promises to come back for Christmas but never does. Akira, the son, realizes that they have been abandoned and decides to hide the secret. He affectionately takes up the responsibility and maintains a family life with almost no money. In one scene, the family of four goes out for the first time to a convenience store to buy things they like.

Film Notes:Nobody Knows

Directed by: Hirokazu Koreeda

Language: in Japanese with Chinese subtitles

Taiwan Release: On general release

But cruelty gradually shadows the home-alone children. Akira is, after all, a 12-year-old boy who likes baseball, computer games and hanging out with friends. After being abandoned, his dignity and faith wear off. And as for his siblings, their hope wanes, too, and they stop asking, `When is mom coming back?'

Director Koreeda uses a documentary-style method to shoot the film, and he spent a whole year living and shooting with the four non-professional child actors. The amateurs come out very naturally and even match performances by the actress who plays their mom and the Cannes' Best Actor, Yagira Yuya.

The most valuable part of the film is that while the drama is very powerful and touching, there is not one slice of a sensational shot. The prose-like narration gives more pounding to one's heart.

One naturally wonders when there will be a Taiwanese film as impressive as this Japanese film. The answer is that the audience might have to wait a few months, since most local production houses are in the beginnings of their 2005 projects.

Three Dots Entertainment (三和娛樂), the company behind the gay comedy Formula 17 (十七歲的天空), recently announced a slate of three movies for 2005. Horror film The Heirloom (宅變) will be followed by two comedies.

The Heirloom will be directed by 23-year-old Leste Chen (陳正道). Terri Kwan (關穎), who starred in Turn Left, Turn Right (向左走 向右走) and Jason Chang (張大鏞), who starred in Formula 17, will star in the film as a couple that inherits a haunted house. The shooting is scheduled to start in March.

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