Friday, August 3, 2007

Byousoku 5 cm: Giving up, but unable to let go

Physical distance. Emotional distance. Temporal distance. Too enthusiastic with the rush of scene cuts towards the end. I think that about covers the more apparent things. If you have yet to see it, read no further. For everyone else, read on.

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Most people consider Byousoku 5 cm to be bittersweet. I found it much more bitter than sweet. Tragic, even. Part way into the first installment, Oukashou, I kept wondering about what kind of possibilities awaited Takaki had he not been naive, or was not punished for being naive. But then, this came along:

Akari's letter to Takaki
Did she forget? Or, like Kanae, did Akari come to the realization that there was no point? Takaki felt that something had changed between them following their kiss. Perhaps Akari felt something too: a sense of finality. She did not look nearly as anguished as Takaki at the train station.

At the end of the final installment, however, Takaki and Akari take turns telling the same narrative, and she got to say that they had promised each other with so much certainty at that train station so long ago. It punches a big hole through my hypothesis.

Still, I can't help but feel that Akari came out the better of the two at the conclusion of this movie. I found the following shot to be particularly painful.

Akari and her fiance
Akari's wedding may be scheduled within the next six months, but there's no way Takaki is receiving an invitation. For one, there's no way she would know his mailing address. For another, most would have second thoughts inviting someone like Takaki after seeing his present condition. He's in a pretty bad way, drinking and smoking, possibly freelancing from home or even unemployed. His place is a mess and he lives about the same.

Sadness piles up just by living. So does the trash.

And that's what is probably eating me the most about Takaki: his inability to pitch the emotional baggage. I only look upon Akari with a bit of hostility because Takaki is so much worse off, and it has come about as a result of his own machinations. As evidenced in the second part, Cosmonaut, Takaki has given up yet can't let go. I'm loathe to speculate as to who stopped sending messages first, but I can't imagine Akari being so insincere and just severing ties. Regardless, Takaki continues sit in limbo right to the end of the movie.

Byousoku 5 cm: Science!
Perhaps it's why he seems to identify with the space probe, superimposing its noble cause onto himself. Like a program (a not very robust one at that), he will pursue a path that will ultimately see him stagnate and loop endlessly. This opens up the whole, man vs machine can of worms. The result, though, is that Takaki does become a shell of his former self, something that he acknowledges before noting that he resigned from his employer.

I do take issue with the whole, "I can't tell you how I feel because what's the point" mode of thinking, especially after having come off the "No regrets!" charge that was Hitohira and Planetes. We can now count Kanae, Takaki, and probably Mizuno(?) among its victims. It happens all the time, in art and real life. It doesn't make it any less depressing to watch.

There's a ray of hope at the end. Were Takaki a real person, I'd wish him the best. Oh, who am I kidding. I wish him the best, anyway.


Mike said...

I can't agree with you more. I've just finished watching the movie and I still feel the sting of the ending. I can't get over the fact that his life is such an utter mess at the end. It's like his whole life up to that point was an utter waste. I know the old saying is "it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all". But I think they should make an exception for cases like Toono. I still think it's a good movie. I have to give the director some kudos for showing "the truth". Even if it's one that people don't want to see.