An Interview with Ota Shingo (Director)
To the Polysemy of Film: Walking on the Border of Expression
Q: This film portrays a lot of suffering. Did you yourself experience any emotional transformation after completing this film?
OS: I started filming in 2007, so a long time has passed, and I have experienced many emotional transformations since then, but I’m not sure whether they were due to the film. However, the words of the main character who passed away during the production of the film stuck with me: “I want you to complete this film.” They carried a psychological burden, a lasting effect. And now that this film will be screened in Yamagata for the first time, I feel that I have finally been freed of a great burden.
At the same time, if he hadn’t passed away, this film might not have been completed. When I reflect on the fact that he chose suicide, I am overwhelmed by this sense of purpose—that I must tell someone what happened.
Q: You incorporate many fictional elements in the film. What was your motive behind this?
OS: I felt that I didn’t want his death to end as just a death. In ordinary movies, the storyline follows the progression of time and then ends, but I thought, “It would be better if he hadn’t died,” and wondered, “Why did he have to die?” I wanted to depict a world that was not dictated by the sequence of time. Also, in the imaginary world called fiction, we can depict him from many angles. I wanted to think about all of those angles while also questioning the objective perspective of why he had to die. With the mask, the death mask we made from his face, we depicted a world after death. And all the different colors of the death mask illustrate the multiplicity of the dead.
Q: You work in many fields other than film. For example, you acted in a play, 5 Days in March, with the theatre group Chelfitsch. How are the ways you experience film and theatre different?
OS: Theatre feels like I’m at home, while films feel like I’m traveling. In theatre, one must figure out how to keep the work fresh, using a chosen script, within a certain length of time. Independent films, such as this work, have no constraints; therefore, we can look at issues with a more critical eye.
Q: The title, The End of the Special Time We Were Allowed, comes from a novel based on 5 Days in March. I was left with the impression that a special time was ending and a new one was beginning. But I also felt that the content of the film contained opposing elements, such as fiction and documentary, and life and death.
OS: I didn’t want to oversimplify things in order to express them. I needed to utilize many perspectives. On top of that, I made this film while doubting whether I was even telling this story correctly. Fictional films and documentaries are different to the people who appear in them, but to those filming, we can’t make any distinctions.
Q: Has “the special time allowed” ended for you? And has the earthquake of March 11 affected your film in any way?
OS: I’m still not out of the moratorium completely, but I feel that my connection to the three characters in the movie has ended. The main character died in December of 2010, and just three months later, the earthquake occurred. Reflecting on this situation, I don’t think that it was time for him to die. Furthermore, I wanted to be influenced by him. If he had lived until then, he would have probably gone to perform in the affected areas. If someone had just sent him a single text message, things might have been different. So, in this sense, I wanted to feel more influence from the earthquake.
(Compiled by Handa Masahito)
Interviewers: Handa Masahito, Ukai Sakurako / Translator: James Almony
Photography: Kotaki Yukie / Video: Miyata Mariko / 2013-10-04 in Yokohama