YIDFF 2019 Perspectives Japan
An Interview with Kusano Natsuka (Director)

Challenges to the Body and the Instillations in Domains

Q: The film opens with the mystery of why a woman killed her close friends’ child. Just when you think it’s a story tracing the mystery of the woman who caused the incident, you realize it’s actually a film focusing on actors rehearsing over and over, developing their roles. What was your thought process behind this?

KN: This film was made through subsidies from Aichi Prefecture, and the theme was “body.” When I thought about what constituted an interesting “body” for me, I thought that I wanted to focus on actors’ processes of developing their roles, even in the sense of coming face to face with actors, as in my last work, Antonym, I’d had regrets about not being able to finish some scenes with the actors. As for featuring a family with a child, that was based on my own experiences. I had gone to visit my friends and their child (who was one year old at the time) at their house. I was shocked by how a house with a small child could be such a peculiar space, as if it were covered by some unseen membrane. It was then that I decided to make a film about a house with a child.

Q: I think it must have been extremely difficult to capture the changes in the actors’ bodies, and there must have been many things that were unclear. In that sense, were there any challenges or difficulties that you faced as the director? Also, was there anything you planned for filming?

KN: This was my first attempt at capturing actors as they develop their roles on film, so filming progressed through trial and error. For example, this film originally had a script written as fiction, and I’d planned to rehearse its 67 scenes with the actors for one week.

However, on the first day of filming, I realized that that was not what I wanted to aim for with this film, and after some consultation, I settled on the scene that had the most story development out of the 67—that is, the scene where the relationships between the three of them are established—and repeated it over and over. Also, during filming, I was not confronting camera images, but always face to face with the actors’ performances. I think developing a role means to “develop the voice of the role,” so I paid particular attention to that as a marker of change.

While holding repeated rehearsals, the most difficult element was the various things that impacted the actors—such as the actors’ own changes in emotion over the repeated rehearsals, or the environment around them—so the things that the actors had achieved would be lost and gained again. In that light, I feel that the most important thing was knowing when to start filming, and when to stop, and the ability to distinguish between the two was the very core of filming.

Q: What does the title of Domains represent? Also, were there any themes you included in the film?

KN: The photographer Narahara Ikko’s photography exhibit, Domains, which I saw at the National Museum of Modern Art in 2014, was the source of my ideas. It featured the photographs of a men’s monastery in Hokkaido and of a women’s prison in Wakayama Prefecture. At first glance, there’s a clear contrast between the people who enter the closed space of a monastery of their own will and the people who have to go to prison, but I felt that there were similarities between them, and that the things reflected in the pictures were actually quite close in nature. I think that’s also reflected in the film.

Additionally, I haven’t talked about this much, but this film is actually modelled after a real incident. Usually, there is something like social pressure to understand things that do not fit into a larger framework, and I feel that this can be oppressive. However, I also think that there are many things in reality, much like that case, that are completely beyond comprehension. In that light, for me personally, the hidden theme of this work is the idea that it’s okay not to look for reasons, as we cannot understand the things beyond comprehension. I think I want to delve even deeper into this as a story in my next work.

(Compiled by Nagayama Momo)

Interviewers: Nagayama Momo, Morisaki Hana / Translator: Joelle Nazzicone
Photography: Sato Hiroaki / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2019-10-04 in Tokyo