Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 5th, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2012
Director: Sion Sono
Writer: Sion Sono
Cast: Isao Natsuyagi, Naoko Otani, Jun Murakami, Megumi Kagurazaka, Denden
DVD released: August 26th, 2013
Approximate running time: 134 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 12 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Japanese
DVD Release: Third Window Films
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £11.00
Synopsis: The inhabitants of a rural village are forced to relocate when a nuclear power plants reactor core is corrupted by the aftereffects of an earthquake.
There was a time when directors’ once wielded power and when said director’s next project came out it was more than just a film, it was an event. Unfortunately this shift away from the auteur theory more towards cinema as commodity has put a severe creative strain on the cinematic process. With that being said in modern cinema there is a very short list of such filmmakers whose next project falls into the latter category. And at the top of said list would Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono’s who’s impressive resume so far includes Suicide Club, Love Exposure and Himizu.
Like many my Sion Sono journey began with Suicide Club and the level of progression as a filmmaker has been astounding. With the only minor blimp along the way being Sono’s send up of the J-Horror genre a film titled Exte: Hair Extensions. And even this film has more than its fare share of extraordinary moments.
Where the majority of his films are known for their daring depiction of sexuality and nihilistic bloodletting, Sono does a complete 360 degrees with his latest film The Land of Hope. This time around it is all about the characters and how each one deals with the traumatic life altering event that touches all of their lives. With this film’s heart and soul revolving around two couples, Izumi and her husband Yoichi and the other much older couple being Yoichi’s parents. Though the difference on the surface of how each couple deals with this traumatic appears to be miles apart. They are actually a lot closer then what is initial apparent once all is said and done. Yoichi’s parents refuse to leave the only home they have ever known even though everyone around have left do to the unsafe conditions due to the damaged nuclear plant, where Izumi and Yoichi make the transition from rural village to the big city. It should also be noted that both women’s plight echoes each others though they are in too completely different environments. To put it more bluntly they both succumb to the madness around them.
When compared to his previous films, The Land of Hope is by far and away his most accomplished film to date. The film’s visuals do a remarkable job capturing the bleakness the of landscapes in the aftermath of a catastrophe. The film’s is flawlessly paced as each moment is drawn out to their limits before allowing the next moment to seep in. And once again Sono’s choice of music proves too fruitful as each musically motif effortlessly reinforces the melodrama unfolding onscreen.
Without a doubt The Land of Hope is the strongest cast that Sono has worked with to date and their performances are all exceptional. Especially Megumi Kagurazakan (Cold Fish, Guilty of Romance) in the role of Izumi and the scenes involving her evolution are the most humorous moments in the film, most notably a scene where she first wears a protective spacesuit in public. In contrast the scenes involving Yoichi’s parents are the most poignant and thus the scenes that ultimately leave the deepest impressions on the ones soul.
As mentioned before there are only handful of filmmakers who I eagerly await what their step will be as a filmmaker and in the case of The Land of Hope, Sono has once again crafted a unique experience that shatters any preconceived notions that I may have had by turning the most mundane situations on their heads.
Third Window Films presents Land of Hope in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s intended aspect ratio. This is yet another strong transfer from Third Window Films that boasts strong detail, accurate looking color and flesh tones and black levels look very good throughout.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in Japanese and removable English subtitles have been included with this release. Dialog comes through with crystal clear clarity, everything sounds balanced and the more ambient aspects of the o9sundtrack are well represented.
Extras include a trailer for the film and a seventy minute ‘Making of’ documentary that includes comments from Sion Sono and various cast members. Besides a wealth on set footage, a few topics include the real life events which inspired this film, the difficulty trying to secure a budget and the cast discuss their involvement in the project. Overall Land of Hope gets a strong release from Third Window Films.
Note: This film is also being release on BluRay by Third Window Films.