Mochizuki, tall young man with thick head of hair, an interviewer
Shiori, a young woman who is Mochizuki’s assistant
Kawashima, a thin man in his 30s with clean-cut features, an interviewer
Mr. Nakamura, head of the interviewing team
Sugie, heavy-set man in his 30s with hair in his eyes, an interviewer
1. Mr. Nakamura comes in early morning in what looks like an abandoned school and announces that last week all 18 made it through. He thanks the four young people and then says that this week there will be 22. He assigns them to the three young men. The young woman does not get any assignments.
2. The tiny old woman with the tight bun in her hair. She is outside, gathering leaves and things. Back inside, the man in the brown suit talks about his life. He zeros in on his youth, a time when he rode the tram and felt the wind rushing by him. That was a sweet moment. Then to the smiling old woman in the blue coat. She talks about her fiancée. She focuses on the time she was reunited with her lover on a bridge. Then to the young man in the gray sweater. He remembers the sound of a little bell—perhaps rung by his mother?—and he loved that sound. Then to the thin old man in the gray suit. He tells a war story. He and other soldiers were starving. They wanted salt so bad. And then the Americans fed them, and the food was salted, and he was happy. Then to the young woman in the white sweater. She tells a story about having pancakes and riding Splash Mountain at Disneyland. Cut to Shiori, who takes notes and looks dissatisfied.
3. Later, outside the building, Shiori sits and talks with the young woman. She tells her that in the one year she has worked here 30 people, mostly teenaged girls, have chosen Disneyland.
4. Back inside, more interviews. The old woman in traditional garb. She tells a lovely story of surviving an earthquake and then eating rice balls in a bamboo grove. Then to the woman in her 30s, dressed in black. She talks about childbirth. Another interview. Insert close-up of notes made by the interviewer: “The cliff where he tried to commit suicide at age 20.” Then we see the think old man with a gray suit and brown shirt. He recounts that moment of near-suicide. The moment the train passed (he was going to step in front of it), he had mental images of his mother and girlfriend. Then to the thin old man with a white beard. He is Watanabe. He just can’t remember something special. Then to the man in his 60s who likes to talk about sex. He talks about getting prostitutes at a discount—just before closing time. Then to the young man in a black sweater. He recounts laying in the afternoon sunlight when he was 5-6 years old! Then to the tiny old woman with gray hair. She lays out her leaves and twigs and nuts on the table. The interviewer queries her for memories, but she has none to share.
5. That night, the team sits in an office and looks at a slide of the old woman. She is Ms. Nishimura. Kawashima, who is her interviewer, says that he has concluded she is living as a nine-year-old. Then they talk about Iseya. Sugie is in his charge. Then Watanabe. Mochizuki talks about this case. His wife died five years ago. Mochizuki concludes that he is using this time to look for some meaning in his life. Sugie wonders if it is too late for that. They will provide Watanabe with videotapes of his life. Then a slide of Bundo. He is the one who remembers something from age 5 or 6 months. The team talks about first memories. When do they occur? Four or five years old? Mr. Nakamura says medical research has proven some people can remember being in the womb. He says you can recreate it by closing your eyes underwater.
6. Sign on door. “ Bath occupied.” Inside is Shiori. She is trying out Nakamura’s idea. Cut to Mochizuki’s office. He requests the videos. Meanwhile, Shiori stands near him.
7. Announcement. Today is the deadline for choosing memories. Inside the first subject is the teenaged girl. She has changed her mind. No more Disneyland. Reaction shot of Shiori. Next subject is Iseya, who talks about choosing a dream. Then to the man in his 60s who likes to talk about sex. He tells about a woman who cooked for him.
8. A short scene of some of the team, as well as others, practicing with musical instruments.
9. Back inside, Mochizuki shows Mr. Watanabe his 71 videotapes, one for each year. He will spend the day looking through the videos. Then to a slight gray-haired old woman, Ms. Kimiko, who recreates a beautiful memory of wearing a red dress and dancing for her brother and getting ice cream from his friends. Her brother died three years ago. Then to the woman in her 40s, dressed in black, with the pink flower. She tells a story about a man who was her lover. She used to imagine that he was a perfect lover. She was a prostitute. Later she learned he had a wife. He never told her he loved her. Then to a man in his 40s. He wears a black sport coat and white shirt. We have not seen him before. He tells a story about flying and the clouds were like cotton candy.
10. Mr. Watanabe watching his videotapes. Even as a young man he wanted to find some meaning in his life. Then to the young pilot. Mochizuki shows him pictures of planes. Can he identify the plane he was flying? He is very particular about the placement of the wings. Then to Mr. Watanabe’s videos. We see him with his wife—on an early date. She is beautiful. He is nervous. Then to Iseya. He has opted out of the process. He sits alone under an outdoor light. Back inside, Mochizuki (with Shiori sitting next to him) interviews Mr. Yamamoto. He wants to make something clear. If I choose only one memory, will I forget everything else? Mochizuki shakes his head yes. “Then that really is heaven,” Mr. Yamamoto says.
11. The team meets. Mochizuki summarizes what Mr. Yamamoto has decided. They talk about ways to film it. Then Mochizuki and Shiori revisit Mr. Watanabe. He is watching a scene of his wife feeding him. He mentions her name, Kyoko, and says they had an arranged marriage the year before. Reaction shot of Mochizuki. Why? Then another reaction shot of Mochizuki. Then back to the video—but we focus on the close-up of Kyoko. Why? Then a strange angle on Mochizuki, from Shiori’s point of view. Then back to the shot of Kyoko in the video. What’s going on here?
12. Mochizuki visits the boss and asks to be taken off the case. Nakamura says this is strange. You never asked this of me all these years. Then a brief scene showing Shiori putting her hair up. Who is she making herself beautiful for?
13. An old man is wiping off the moon inserts for the roof window. Mr. Watanabe watching more videos of himself. Mochizuki is with him. Watanabe complains that everything in his life was only so-so. But Mochizuki says, “But you said you had a good marriage.” Watanabe admits that their relationship was not characterized by “burning passion.” Mochizuki refers to that lack of passion being common in “our generation.” Now Watanabe is confused. He is sitting next to a young man. What is this about “our generation.” Mochizuki admits that he was 22 when he died in 1945. He died May 28, 1945, after being wounded in WW II.
14. Sugie is working with the woman in black, who wears the violet flower. He has done some research on her version of a memory, and he announces that she is four years off on her timing. She admits that when she met her husband, she lied when she told him she was 28. She was actually 32. Then Sugie pours some tea for her and admits that he shaved five years off of his age, too. Then he tells her he even used several aliases because he was on the run after his company folded. She says, “Really?” He says, “Not really. Now we’re even.” She laughs. Wide shot of the two as they enjoy their tea. “The truth is,” she says, “he never showed up. I kept waiting, but. . . . “
15. Iseya being interviewed. He keeps talking about that dream he had. The interviewer presses him to choose a memory. “But those are just memories. Ultimately we end up turning memories into our images.” He talks about making a film about his ideas for the future. To him, that would be more real than resurrecting some memory. Cut to a closer shot of him. He’s really into this idea now. “Living with a single moment from my past would be too painful for me.” When the interviewer says he had better reconsider this, Iseya responds, “Yeah, it’s your whole set-up here that needs rethinking.”
16. Ms. Kimiko draws the famous red dress she wore as a child. Mochizuki is with her. She goes on and on about this story.
17. Kawashima is with Ms. Kimiko. She stands at the window and talks about springtime and cherry blossoms. Kawashima is getting nowhere with her. He gets up and shows her a picture of his daughter, born in April. “I’ve been here three years now. She must be six.” He says that he sees her once a year, on the Day of the Dead. Adult Day ceremonies, which take place when a person turns 20, means that she will be on her own and not need his fatherly responsibility. “That’s why I’m here.”
18. The young schoolgirl has come up with a memory. Mochizuki and Shiori are sitting across from her. She recalls a time when she was three years old. She recalls a time when her mother held her in her lap. Her mother was warm and she smelled sweet. “It felt so familiar.” After the interview, the young woman catches up with Shiori on the stairs and thanks her for her help. “It’s better than Disneyland, right?” Shiori says. Then she shares with the young woman memories of her father.
19. Mochizuki sitting with Mr. Watanabe. Shiori, who has been looking for Mochizuki, comes in the room. She leaves. Back in her room she is frustrated! Why? Because she wanted to see Mochizuki. She goes location scouting and takes photographs in various locations. But she seems to soak up the ambience rather than focus on the tasks at hand.
20. Back at the building Kawashima complains that her photographs are useless. She goes off in a huff, and poor Kawashima continues to bemoan their fate here. He wonders what all of this work is for. Camera on Mochizuki as he complains.
21. An intense working session with the major players and other related workers. They discuss ways of making the filming of the scenes convincing. Everyone has comments on how to make the details specific and realistic.
22. Mochizuki leaves the meeting and walks through the hallway. He stops at the skylight and looks up to see what appears to be a waxing moon, halfway through its cycle. Shiori is behind him. She asks him who Kyoko was. She noticed his discomfort when Mr. Watanabe screened the first scene with his wife. She says, “Don’t worry. It doesn’t concern me.” Ha! That’s a lie. Mr. Nakamura has overheard their interaction. He reminds her to apologize to Kawashima tomorrow. She scoots off. Later, Mr. Nakamura visits Shiori. Why? Then we see him leave as he mutters, “I wonder if she got my point.”
23 Mr. Watanabe drying his hair. Suddenly the circuit goes out. An announcement: “Please refrain from using hair dryers.”
24. Everyone enters the building. They head directly to the studio where the memories will be filmed. Meanwhile, Mr. Watanabe sits outside on a bench. Young Iseya walks by and calls him “Gramps.” He realizes this must be Watanabe, the only other person who could not choose a memory. Iseya says he has not chosen a memory because “I decided this is the way to take responsibility for my life.”
25. Watanabe is back in the room looking at videos. He watches a scene of himself, an old man, sitting in a park on a bench next to his wife. She reminds him of the time of their first date, when he wiped sweat from his brow. They sit apart from one another. They agree to see a movie together once in a while. The old man on the bench smiles. Cut to the old man watching himself on video. “We certainly have plenty of time,” he hears himself say on the video. Back to his point of view. We see the husband and wife on the bench. The old man has closed his eyes and smiles. Bells ring in the background. The image goes to freeze-frame. Then we see Watanabe at Mochizuki’s door. Then we see them across from one another at the interview table. “It’s just an idle afternoon in the park,” Watanabe says. “I’m happy for you.” He notes that this visit to the movies, after their time in the park, was the only time they went to the movies in their 40 years of marriage. Watanabe apologizes for being late in choosing his memory. Mochizuki then drops a bombshell: “Everyone who works here couldn’t choose either.” “You, too?” Watanabe says. Then, amazingly, we get a reverse angle shot—the first time Mochizuki appears to be in the position of the interviewed, rather than the interviewer. “Yes, me too.” Then Mochizuki summarizes the years since his death. He has always done this work, but at different facilities. He has been here for three years. Note how Watanabe has subtly taken over the role of interviewer. He asks if Mochizuki couldn’t think of a memory or chose not to think of one. Watanabe, remembering Iseya’s comment, says, “This might be one way of taking responsibility.” “Responsibility?” Mochizuki asks.
26. Back to the studio. The old woman with the gray bun in her hair watches with interest as some of the stagehands drop mock blossoms from above. Then the young flier gets in the mock-up of the Cessna and the stagehands blow cloud smoke past him. He tells Mochizuki what worked and what didn’t in that rehearsal. Notice the hand-held camera work here.
27. Kawashima works with a middle-aged man whose memory focuses on a trolley ride. One of the assistants plays an audiocassette of trolley traffic. The subject of the memory approves. As rehearsal proceeds, several of the workers and assistants shake the trolley car to simulate its ride. The subject sits inside and takes it all in.
28. The old woman wearing the traditional dress stands in the mock-up of the bamboo grove Her memory combines riding a swing and eating rice cakes. We see Shiori, dressed in traditional garb, perhaps to play a role in this filming of the memory. The old woman tells more stories about playing in the bamboo groves, as well as stories of the great Tokyo earthquake in 1927. Back to the Cessna flyer. The director sets him up to see from the camera’s point of view the clouds flowing by. The clouds are huge balls of cotton strung on wires. He approves.
29. Ms. Kimiko is introduced to the little girl who is going to play her in the memory. Her memory involves dancing in a red dress. She teaches the little girl the dance. She looks so happy. She says, “I once looked like that.” She mentions that she prayed at her brother’s altar this morning and told him her memory would be filmed today.
30. Mr. Watanabe’s memory being filmed. We see him from behind as he sits at the park bench with his wife. Last shot in the scene is a reaction shot of Mochizuki—as he watches with interest.
31. Night scene, exterior. Then to a scene at the next day—Mochizuki walks the hallways, stops at the skylight, and looks up. Snow falls through the skylight. Cut to an exterior scene.
32. More exterior shots of snowing. Inside, we see the workers playing musical instruments and serenading the subjects. The old woman with the gray bun in her hair looks up at Kawashima, tugs on his coat, and then hands him a gift—a plastic bag holding the artificial cherry blossoms. He takes the gift from her and bows. Then Mr. Nakamura thanks everyone for their efforts and reminds the subjects that they will spend eternity with the one memory they have selected. Cut to a marching band—a line of the workers who lead the subject to the auditorium. Wide shot of t he subjects seated in the auditorium. The workers enter and sit in the rear. The films begin. We see the subjects lit in blue-gray light as the projector shines its light—then cut away to Mochizuki, who is packing up in his office. He finds a letter from Mr. Watanabe. He reads the letter. Mr. Watanabe knows now that he was the fiancé of his wife Kyoko. He thanks Mochizuki for not discussing Kyoko with him; after all, Mochizuki would have had much to say. He knows how much Mochizuki meant to Kyoko, and he thanks Mochizuki for helping him “affirm the 70 years of my life.”
33. Then he notices Shiori standing at the door. Cut to a later scene. Now Mochizuki is seated, and he tells Shiori the truth of these recent days. She paces at the window. He reveals that he didn’t talk to Mr. Watanabe about Kyoko because it would have been too painful for him. He was jealous of Mr. Watanabe, who accepted Kyoko for what she was. “I never let myself get close to anyone.” Cut to Shiori, who turns and complains, “How can you say that? Maybe you were deeply involved with her in ways you didn’t even know.”
34. Shiori searching the film vault. She finds something she has been looking for. Cut to Mochizuki and Shiori entering one of the buildings—then as they watch the film unfold. Mr. Nakamura was the interviewer for Kyoko’s transition. What memory did she choose to film? A memory of the same park that Mr. Watanabe selected. The memory consisted of her sitting next to her naval officer husband, who was about to be shipped out for duty, and the focus of her memory is of his hands clasped in front of him. To confirm this, the two sit in front of a monitor as Mochizuki cues the videotape, one of many from his own life, and the two watch the same scene unfold. “That was the one she chose,” Shiori says. We see the scene from a different angle. In the image, Mochizuki looks nervous and remote from his wife. Cut to a wide shot of Mochizuki and Shiori as they sit out on the park bench in the snow. A close shot confirms that he is sitting in the same way as back in that 1943 memory; and Shiori is sitting the same as his wife sat. Screen goes to black.
35. Studio scene. Mochizuki enters alone and sits on the park bench on one of the sets. Daytime exterior. Shiori walks across the snow. Then she begins to play with the snow, throw the snow around, and the longer she seems to play the more she seems to be releasing anger for some reason. Then we see her in a hot bath. Mochizuki asleep in his room. Suddenly he wakes up. Shiori is in his room. “You’re going away. You’re going to choose.” She does not turn on the lights He sits up in bed. “Why did I ever help you? I’m so stupid!” Why is she so angry. Because she loves him. He tells his story: at the time of his death, he searched desperately for some memory of happiness: “Now 50 years later, I learned I was part of someone else’s happiness. What a wonderful discovery. Someday, you too will find this.” But she is adamant. “I will never choose. If I do, I’ll have to forget all about this place. So I won’t choose. I’m going to keep you inside in me forever. I can’t bear to be forgotten by any more people.” His response: “I only came to this understanding through the time I spent here, through all the people I met and said good-bye to here. So I promise, I’ll never forget what happened here.
36. Cut to an empty park bench in the snowy landscape.
37. A close shot of a photograph of the staff on the front steps of the building. This must be Mr. Nakamura’s office? Then to a wide shot of the room: the meeting of Mochizuki with Mr. Nakamurea and the two assistants, Sugie and Kawashima. Mochizuki tells them that when he sat on the park bench on the empty set yesterday, he was finally happy. He was able to reflect on the 22 years of his life. Mr. Nakamura says he will make an exception in this case and congratulates Mochizuki for coming up with a memory to film.
38. On the set to film Mochizuki’s memory. There is Mochizuki alone on the park bench (from yesterday) and there is Shiori and the others watching him as he is filmed. Camera stays on Shiori when the director yells “Cut!”
39. Shiori and the others are seated in the theater to watch Mochizuki’s film. Shiori sits next to Mochizuki. Cut to a two-shot of them. He tells her in a low voice that he did not finish the mystery novel. He asks her to read it for him, after she has finished the encyclopedia. Screen goes black. We see the film of Mochizuki’s memory. He leans forward on the bench and clasps his hands—as before. Then he looks up right into the camera. Cut to his point of view of the camera crew at work. Shiori stands in the background with the others. Screen goes to black. Reverse angle to show the people in the seats. Mochizuki is missing. The others leave the building and return to their offices.
40. Darkness. Mr. Nakamura paying a game with the janitor. They wonder how she will do tomorrow morning. Who are they talking about?
41. Kawashima and Shiori are walking the hallways early in the morning. He gives her advice on how to handle some of the tough customers. Everyone is ready in Mr. Nakamura’s office. Well, almost everyone. All except Iseya, the one who would not choose last week. He is going to join their band as Kawashima’s assistant (just as Shiori joined as Mochizuki’s assistant). But where is Iseya? He is outside playing in the snow.
42. Shiori walks down a hallway and checks out the skylight. It shows a first quarter moon, then a full moon, and then the prop is lifted off and the man who fixes the moon prop looks down and says hello to Shiori. She walks along and looks very happy. Meanwhile, a number of new subjects enter the doorway. Shiori sits at a desk in her office. She practices what she will say on her first day as an interviewer. Suddenly someone knocks on the door twice. She stops and looks up. Somebody must be at the door. Screen goes black. Credits follow. ENDS 1.55.27
Summary written by Robert Yahnke, 2001
Copyright, Robert E. Yahnke, © 2009
Professor, General College, Univ. of Minnesota,
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