Drive My Car

Drive My Car ★★★★

The director Hamaguchi Ryusuke has been celebrating the aesthetics of chaotic nature that resides within human mind throughout his filmography so far. The film 'Drive My Car' is like an epitome of such movement undertaken by the director for a long time. To borrow the metaphor from his previous work 'Asako I & II', the film 'Drive My Car' is an ultimate celebration of how human hearts flow like a muddy water in a chaotic way. Just like the object of such celebration, his films share ambivalent qualities created by a mix of subtlety and chaos. And such mysteriously ambivalent qualities of his films come from the fact that his celebration of chaos comes through poised, analytical methodology which rather seems contradictory at times.

Unlike the films of Cassavetes, ones that are said to have influenced Hamaguchi to become a filmmaker, Hamaguchi's films are quite mechanical in both analysis of his characters and methodology of deploying camerawork. His analysis of human characters is that of great black-and-white divide between the outer self and the inner self. His deployment of camerawork is much about using that center close-up shot precisely only at the peak of elevated emotion between characters. While Hamaguchi aims to celebrate fluidity of inner human emotions just like Cassavetes, such analytical methodologies mentioned above give Hamaguchi's films weirdly contradictory vibes that aptly mesmerize the audience. For the case of 'Drive My Car', much of the credit should be given to two literary giants, Haruki Murakami and Anton Chekhov, since the film is practically a reconstruction of the great play 'Uncle Vanya'. To borrow the words from Newton, Hamaguchi was able to create this film because he was standing on the shoulders of those two literary giants. But, like I said before, the weird contradictory vibe of the film is Hamaguchi's very own work and should be given enough credit just for that matter.

What's also interesting about 'Drive My Car' is how Hamaguchi presents his own theory of salvation towards the audience; How to accept inevitability of not being able to fully understand one another. To put it short, Hamaguchi tells that we should just accept what it is and move on. Human minds are mysteries in their own rights and we should accept them as what they are, rather than dissecting them to fit our own narratives. His theory of salvation comes from our commonly shared fate of ignorance towards others, no matter how close we think we are to them. In that sense, the metaphoric shape of human life is indeed like a theatrical play where each performer would only act out one's own narrative in each respective language since every person could only act out one's very own narrative to others in real life too. If we could say that Chkhov's 'Uncle Vanya', which is the centerpiece of the film, was to say that we should move on even if the painful conditions of life cannot be eradicated, then Hamaguchi's films say that we should move on even if we do not understand anyone's true narratives including those of ourselves.

But, is his theory of salvation true enough for others to intake in real life? On that matter, I have some doubts or reservations on my own to that question. Even though we cannot truly or fully understand one another, would such ignorance be a true means of justification to whatever heinous acts of humans? Hamaguchi somewhat says it isn't so as he shows how fully realized chaotic nature of humans bring their own inevitable demise through story arcs of various characters. But he still seems to believe in remnant of goodness that one could not easily see in others' hearts from the first place. One could find evidence of his hope in melodramatic story arc of Misaki's mother placed at the latter part of the film. Just like the relationship between Sonya and Vanya in 'Uncle Vanya', the protagonist Kafuku and Misaki help each other to live on through that story arc amidst the inevitability of ignorance upon other humans. But, I ask again, how does inevitability of such ignorance could justify any heinous acts of humans? Even if it could be said to be true that people work in mysterious ways, it would also be a task of that same person to constrain oneself in order not to spoil lives of others and oneself too. Hamaguchi's supposed theory of salvation seems to fall short on that question as he seems to be solely mesmerized by how human lives revolve mysteriously with the help of imagination and destiny. To bring up that metaphor of muddy water once again, he is like a person who would only look at the chaotic flow of muddy water, but choose not to look at the aftermath of such deluge.

Despite my small disappointments written above, I do think that the film 'Drive My Car' shows much potential in Hamaguchi becoming more human-like director when it comes to filmmaking. Even though his script is still quite analytical like machinery system, overflowing perplexed emotions created by ensemble of performers aptly fatten such cold, shallow body of an original script. Though some of those examples may seem overly melodramatic, especially the homecoming one placed in the latter section, such direction of filmmaking seemed to be going in the right way for Hamaguchi as I often found the weakness of Hamaguchi's films to be emotionless theoretical understanding of human nature. Combined with similar impressions I received from his other recent film 'Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy', the film 'Drive My Car' gave me hopeful excitement that Hamaguchi may well grow up to be a great director who is not only well versed in screenplay but also in human emotions that are not just adequately realized through words only.

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