Review by: Mountain Monkey
SCUM Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Part of the Japanese Film Festival’s ‘Around the 80s’ theme, Farewell To The Land was released in 1982 by screenwriter and director Mitsuo Yanagimachi.
Screened in crackly, vibrant 35mm to a small but enthusiastic audience at the National Museum of Singapore, the film was a breath of fresh air on these hazy shores.
The festival’s synopsis of the film as being ‘realistic yet detached’ is entirely accurate as we follow the life of a truck driver Yukio Yamazawa in early 1980s Japan. After the tragic drowning of his two young sons, Yukio leaves his pregnant wife and elderly parents for a younger woman, his brother’s ex-girlfriend, Junko. The love affair of the two begins to unravel when Yukio’s drug habit gets out of control and he loses his job, family and eventually, his mind.
The gradual destruction of Yukio perhaps parallels the destruction of nature during the rapid urbanization of post-war Japan, as armies of trucks move across the country with loads of sand to fuel the construction boom. Hypnotic shots of wind blowing through trees and rice fields abound in the movie, perhaps hinting to us that the forces of nature are blowing through bigger things than the tragic central character in the movie.
This feeling of omnipresence is only accentuated by the excellent music from Japanese jazz flautist, Toshiaki Yokota, who produced a cosmic blend of Krautrock and traditional Japanese music for the film.
Yanagimachi’s theme of nature transgressed is further explored in his later movie, Himatsuri/Fire Festival (1985), which is comprehensively reviewed at Midnight Eye.
Looking back at Farewell To The Land from a haze-shrouded 2013 (at least in Singapore), one cannot help but feel a sense of poignancy as forests are burned down in pursuit of profits, with scant regard for nature or fellow humans.
Many thanks to the Kawakita Memorial Film Institute for screening this important but rarely seen film in Singapore.