The controversial and critically acclaimed Toshiaki Toyoda burst onto the scene with such well known exports as 9 Souls, Blue Spring and Blood Of Rebirth. Presenting an unflinching eye on modern Japan and collaborating with some of the country’s most notable creative forces (Asian Kung Fu Generation & Pyuupiru), the work of Toshiaki Toyoda is a force to be reckoned with. Japan Cinema had a chance to catch up with the enigmatic filmmaker during the U.K. premiere of his latest title Monsters Club.
For those readers that have not yet seen the film could you maybe tell us a little bit about Monsters Club and how this project came about?
Toshiaki: This is the story about a young man living in a cabin in remote place outside of urban culture and away from all things. Living by himself in the winter covered mountains, we see the emotional survival of the person depicted. I was really thinking about the Unibomber in America. The Unabomber was quite strict, he did not bomb everywhere but was rather making a statement and was thinking about how to make things a little bit different, asking maybe, the question of the people and a question to the people living in a world of egoism. We’ve got the pyramid in our society. You have the top and then the bottom. I have been asking people: how are we going to survive in this pyramid world?!
Snow, Hunting and the harsh realities of nature all play a strong role in the theme of the movie, could you tell us a little about how you settled on this location and the overall harsh coldness of the film?
Toshiaki: I think the snow isolates people, making them powerless. You cannot face the nature and that was something I really wanted to explore. Eita (the main character) is alone and has to learn to be self sufficient in order to survive what he is facing. This had to be a necessity, which is why it needed to be a remote snowy area.
Monster’s Club presents a portrait of unconventional family life, Could you tell us why you chose not to show children within the family?
Toshiaki: The Unibomber was the central point of my idea, he was a grown up person so I created a family around the protagonist that would act as motivation to his choices.
Can you tell us a bit about the artistic influence of the monsters themselves and how each of them have their own distinct look and play into the central character’s decisions?
Toshiaki: [Laughs] I was thinking about My Neighbor Totoro and how that monster plays a role similar to that as the monsters in my own film. If you think about any movie in any country, in the fantasy there is always some type of Totoro character. In my own childhood fantasy, Totoro was that. But I think it might be signifying losing someone through death- that to me is the significance of the monsters. These monsters are not a living creature, they do not inhabit our world but rather symbolises the dead.
With Monsters Club you filmed without a script over a period of two weeks, can you tell us about why you employ this freeform style of filmmaking and how you put a story together?
Toshiaki: I feel it’s quite a traditional method and an integral part of Japanese film making. It’s not really a rare method Nagisa Oshima (Gohatto) does it as does Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai). I think it is a style that has become part of our culture and i am influenced by the filmmaking of those people. When When i make a film, i am director but also, filmmaking is the team work. It’s not only about me is it? The film would probably be not as interesting if I made every decision and everything right from the start [laughs]. Everybody’s asking me about storyboarding, so who knows? Maybe i’ll try storyboarding next time.
Throughout all of your work you have often collaborated with a tight knit group of creative people such as artists and musicians, Could you tell me a bit about the role they play in the conception and production of your movies?
Toshiaki: I meet people from friends and connections or when I go to the Live House and listen to musicians. That’s how I came across the work of Ken Ken who portrays the character of Kenta, Eita’s youngest sibling. I really like his music, so one day I approached him and asked him to take the role. He is also a talented bass player. My next movie that’s just been completed also stars Ken Ken as he takes the role of a bassist.
Can you tell us a little about your next movie “I’m Flash”?
Toshiaki: Tatuya Fujiwara (Death Note, Battle Royale) and Ryuhei Matsuda (Nightmare Detective 2, Ozu) take the main roles alongside Kiko Mizuhara (Norwegian Wood) in a film that takes place in Okinawa. “I’m Flash” tells the story of a religious cult, its leader and its body guards. The film has gun action and love. That’s all I can tell you for now…