Magazine article Metro Magazine

Living in Limbo: Nobody Knows: Nobody Knows Is the Third Hirokazu Koreeda Feature to Be Exhibited at International Film Festivals and to Receive a Theatrical Release on the Art Cinema Circuit. Highly Regarded by Critics, His Cinema Is a Contemplative Cinema, Far Removed from Action Cinema and Other Popular Commercial Film Genres

Magazine article Metro Magazine

Living in Limbo: Nobody Knows: Nobody Knows Is the Third Hirokazu Koreeda Feature to Be Exhibited at International Film Festivals and to Receive a Theatrical Release on the Art Cinema Circuit. Highly Regarded by Critics, His Cinema Is a Contemplative Cinema, Far Removed from Action Cinema and Other Popular Commercial Film Genres

Article excerpt

His films are concerned with the material and spiritual conditions of ordinary people living in limbo-between life and death, normality and abnormality, isolation and connection. His early films, television documentaries and dramatic features demonstrated an interest in people unable to produce, face or relinquish memories of the past. His first feature, Maborosi (1996), was a beautifully shot and sensitively directed film about a woman who is emotionally frozen in a state of mourning and melancholia. His more unusual second feature, the teasingly philosophical After Life (known in Japan as Wonderful Life, 1999), focused on a disparate group of people who are located literally in Limbo--the land between death and the after-life--and faced with the difficult task of selecting one outstanding happy memory from their past lives.

Nobody Knows (2004) tells the story of four siblings (with a common mother but different unknown fathers) who are abandoned by their single mother and have to fend for themselves. The eldest child, 12-year-old Akira, is the only legal child. The other three are not only illegitimate but officially unregistered; they therefore have no public existence.

After Akira and his mother publicly take possession of their new apartment, at the beginning of the film, the 10-year-old Kyoko sneaks in surreptitiously at night, arriving on foot from the station; the two younger children, Yuki and Shigeru, have been smuggled into the apartment in suitcases. Their mother forbids the younger three to leave the apartment and even Akira is not allowed to attend school. He is obliged to look after the younger children, do the shopping and cooking and pay the bills. The mother, who is herself child-like, goes to work but also parties at night and is always falling in love with another man and absconding with him. On the rare occasions when she is at home, she supervises Akira's studies, teaches the other children, tells them about their fathers and cuts their hair. Sometimes she sends them money in the mail, which Akira uses to buy toys for the children, as well as food.

Although the children are officially non-existent, it is not strictly true that nobody knows about them. They are befriended by Saki, a junior high schoolgirl who is ostracized by her schoolmates and who is lonely and unhappy. Akira also briefly links up with some schoolboys in the street and brings them home to play video games. Later, when his mother has failed to return after a long absence and he has run out of money to buy food and pay the rent and electricity bill, they have to wash themselves and their clothes at the tap in the playground because the water has been cut off in the apartment. The neighbours become aware of their existence and plight but prefer not to notice. A former boyfriend of their mother, who may be Yuki's father, likewise declines to become involved when approached by Akira for help. On the other hand, ' the employees of the local supermarket take pity on them and sneak them items of food that are past their use-by date and that Akira collects at the back door of the shop. Thus many people are shown to be indifferent, if not selfish and callous, but not all. The children could not survive without the help of Saki and their friends at the supermarket. …

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