Wednesday, 1 October 2014


Isolated island cultures are as close as we may come to observing humanity as it might have evolved as separate breeds of the one species. Amami embraces its surroundings as only a small island of its kind can, its habitants accepting their role as a part of nature, neither as its master nor its slave. It is in the connection that they have with their environment - the influences and the outcomes of nature on these human beings, their thoughts and feelings - that Kawase Naomi's Still the Water situates itself. Kawase explores the intersections between seemingly duelling aspects of existence: tradition and modernity, reality and spirituality, nature and technology, concluding that these conflicts are as natural as their origins and as their effects, and that humankind's acceptance of their symbiotic role with the world around them can transform conflict into peace. Even the ultimate natural conflict, between life and death, is presented as a harmonic sequence of preparatory and resolutive events - gradual and entirely comprehensible. Kawase relates all back directly to the hearts and minds of her human subjects, seeking to understand them even as they do not understand themselves: Kaito's dislocation, the oppression he suffers from the mere pressure of existing among other living entities, is not rooted in his urban upbringing but suggested as being soothed by it. The simplicity of her directing draws one's attention to the latent, only-ever implicit connections that define Still the Water, though also to the care she lacks in handling certain narrative progressions. A calming musical score subtly hints at the aforementioned conflicts, whilst also stressing the serenity of the film at its heart.