What inspired you to begin work on this film?
After my father’s death, my mother started living by herself in a housing complex, and I always had a feeling I wanted to make a film about the place in the future. The first scene which came to mind was walking through the complex, there was grass, it had become very beautiful the morning after a typhoon. Since I was a child, I had wondered why the complex was so beautiful after a storm. It seemed totally different after one night, though nothing had changed. I wanted to describe that moment.
Please describe your working method and the atmosphere on set. Anecdotes welcome.
Filming took place in the apartment building where I grew up. As I wrote the script, I dug deeper into my memory than I had for my previous films.
Kiki Kilin asked me to bring a photo of my mother and father at the complex, and show it to her. When we were choosing glasses at a fitting session Kilin said, “I want to wear those glasses in the picture”, so she chose to wear my mother’s glasses. In this way, my process of writing the script and her preparation for the role were different from what we'd done for the films we'd collaborated on in the past.
The atmosphere on set was good as usual. As with previous films, I didn’t provide the cast with the script before shooting. In terms of the cinematography, there was not enough space in the room, so we had no trouble with deciding on camera position. The room was the same size and layout as the one I lived in for 20 years.
I do have an anecdote. One of the characters is Mrs Nagaoka, a friend of my mother's, and we met the real Mrs Nagaoka at the supermarket during filming. She said “Long time no see! My son is looking forward to seeing your film, Kore chan!”. I replied, “Hi, sorry for telling you this so late, but I used your name in the film”, and I got her approval then and there. My former classmates’ parents who still lived there came to watch the filming, and someone gave me money, just like when I was a kid. It was like a family gathering.
Please share a few words about your actors.
In Still Walking, the TV series Going Home, and this film, Abe Hiroshi has played the roles in which I see myself, in my 40s and 50s, so he is special for me, like my alter ego. After Still Walking, both of us became fathers, and the changes in us are reflected in the characters. I think it is a good thing that the director, the actor and the roles "grow up together".
I decided to cast Yoshizawa Taiyo as the son at a glance when I first met him at an audition attended by 100 kids. He was unlike the other child actors; he speaks with small voice, not clear voice. I rewrote his role to suit his voice.
What are your views on the state of the film industry in your country?
I feel the industry in Japan is in a critical state, especially as a result of the loss of diversity in screen numbers and target audiences. Filmmakers have tunnel vision because the market in Japan is only an internal one. But moaning about it doesn't help, so I’d like to try and create something that isn't influenced by current trends. This isn't only a problem for Japan, but for other countries, too. We need to acknowledge it though, because Japan is a closed market, far more so than other countries.
What sources of artistic inspiration have you drawn from in your work?
Motivation comes from meeting and talking with other contemporary filmmakers, but inspiration comes from what is happening in the world around us and in our lives, including my life. I try not to be influenced by other movies.
For this film, I was inspired by my interest in and love for the housing complex as it is now, and also a kind of regret and deep feelings about how I have lived for 50 years, which includes my relationship with my mother.
I did an interview the other day and the reporter described the film as “a film about giving up.” The key to the film is the idea of “giving up” or “not giving up”. Our 50s is the age we give up. The protagonist of this film is a man who cannot give up, even if it is painful and laughable to others.