A thirty-something nameless movie/anime director is feeling down and out, and returns to the place where he grew up for some soul searching. He runs into a strange-looking, eccentric young lady who captivates his attention and he decides to follow her. He soon notices that she is somewhat out of touch with reality and is also displaying some worrisome obsessive compulsive traits. The man is completely fascinated by this peculiar girl and she seems to find some sort of comfort in him, and they grow closer and closer.
The movie was partially based on the book ‘Touhimu’, written by Ayako Fujitani, who just so happens to play the lead role of the mysterious girl ‘Shiki-Jitsu’ focuses on. The book itself describes the hard and desolate times Fujitani went through whilst spending time in Los Angeles while her father (Steven Seagal of all people!) was shooting the movie ‘The Patriot’. The fact that the story is in a way autobiographical explains a lot about her phenomenal acting in this film. Her portrayal of the highly troubled young lady is so convincing that it really makes one wonder to what extent she’s actually acting and not just ever-so-slightly psychotic herself.
Furthermore, something that is overtly clear to those who are familiar with director Hideaki Anno’s work (being the main force behind legendary anime ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’), is that he poured a lot of himself into this movie and especially the male character. The man is played by Shunji Iwai, who we all know for having directed films such as ‘All About Lily Chou-Chou’ and ‘Hana and Alice’ in real life, and now finds himself on the other side of the camera. The movie is mainly told from his perspective through occasional narration. In passing he has some philosophical contemplations, mostly concerning “reality” and “fiction”, although he doesn’t attempt to go in too deep. The latter is a good thing in my opinion, the movie does not pretend to have all the answers and doesn’t linger too long. We are merely following along with his quasi-philosophical train of thought, coincidentally making him as a character that much more real.
The look and feel of Shiki-Jitsu are quite unique. It is filled with stark contrasts like the two main characters themselves. The girl’s residence is a huge abandoned mall, and this mall is a piece of art in itself. There are countless rooms colorfully filled with, well, either junk or art, depending on your perspective. The same goes for the many flamboyant outfits the girl wears. In the meanwhile, the rest of the city is about as industrially gritty and depressing as it gets. This notable contrast, idyllically shot using some unconventional camera work (which Anno had been practicing in his earlier movie ‘Love & Pop’) is pure cinematographic delight. So coarse, so unrefined , and yet so beautiful, especially when supported by the lovely piano pieces that come and go throughout the film.
This is definitely not a film for everyone, it is very calm and atmospheric, and runs slightly over two hours, thus could be boring to some. The story in itself is far from revolutionary and the ending is one that could readily be criticized. I must admit, the first time I saw this film, at the moment the credits rolled in I felt a tinge of disappointment, this was however quickly cast off by the realization; “… but who cares, “I’m in love!”