Films A to Z
Ai no Mukidashi (愛のむきだし)
- 237 min.
- Year of Production:
- Takahiro Nishijima
- Production Company:
- Omega Project Ltd
- Berlinale Section:
- Berlinale Category:
- Feature Film
Yu is a high school boy who lives with his father. After Yu’s mother dies at a young age, his father decides to become a catholic priest. Yu’s father is a much-loved priest and the father and son live happily in tranquility. But one day, a woman named Kaori falls for Yu’s father. Yu is completely against this because he does not like Kaori’s eccentric presence intruding on the father and son’s peaceful life. Kaori wants to marry Yu’s father but cannot because he is a priest, so she suddenly leaves him.
The father is devastated, and starts to express his anger by telling Yu to come to confession every day to confess his wrongdoings. Yu is such a pure child that he has to fabricate sins of all sorts. Yu keeps creating new sins because the only way he can communicate with his father is by going to confession. One day, he discovers that anything related to sex is what makes his father angriest, so he starts taking “upskirt” photos, photos of girls’ panties shot secretly without the girls’ noticing it. In the course of taking “upskirt” photos, he meets the girl of his dreams, Yoko, and it’s love at first sight for Yu.
Around the same time, Kaori comes back to town wanting to get back together with his father, and even worse, it turns out that Yoko is Kaori’s stepdaughter! Now Yu will have to live under one roof with Yoko, the love of his life, as brother and sister.
In the meantime all of these crazy incidents are being watched over by Koike, a sub-leader of a religious cult known as Zero. She has taken a great interest in Yu and knows that Yoko is his weak point. So Koike kidnaps Yoko, Kaori and Yu’s father and brainwashes them into the cult. Koike hopes that Yu will join the cult following in his family’s footsteps, but he will not fall for this trick. Instead, Yu is prepared to do anything to save Yoko, the love of his life, from the Zero religious cult.
„Love is an erection“
How did you end up making this project?
I actually had a strange friend who had a hobby of shooting the so-called “upskirt photos.” One day he showed me his “work” and it was all photos of this high school girl waiting at a bus stop. He asked me, “What do you think of it?” But I could not find the words to answer to that and all I could think in my head was “This guy is a total freak.”
Around that time, one of the professional “upskirt” photographers took a liking to my friend’s “works” and he became a charismatic figure in the “upskirt” photo world. His work was a phenomenon and his videos started to sell like crazy.
Then later on, he told me his younger sister was brainwashed into a religious cult, and he was having difficulties in trying to get her back. It’s said that once people are brainwashed, it’s impossible to get them back, but he went to all extremes to get her back and succeeded. He told me proudly, “I convinced her to come back to this world, and won her back!” But then I thought, “The world that he lives in is quite crazy too.” This story just remained in my head as quite a freaky incident.
Did you think that this could be an interesting plot for a film?
Not at all. For LOVE EXPOSURE - AI NO MUKIDASHI it took two and a half years to write the script. In the beginning the freakish elements were too strong, and I was thinking that no one would watch this, so I added a lot of other elements and it became the script that it is today. The “upskirt” photo shooting story became the pillar; sacred and secular; sex and abstinence; Christianity and religious cults – I wanted to create conflicts within various elements, and developed the script.
I wanted to become a freak if I could, but I just couldn’t. People like that look so happy in certain moments in life, so I tried the same things they did, but it didn’t work for me. I helped take the photos, but it did not hit me like it hit them. In some ways, I was envious of their high degree of happiness.
Are other aspects of the story based on real incidents?
When I came to Tokyo, I had no place to live and no food to eat and was in despair. Near the train station a religious cult member tried to recruit me, so I asked, “If I believe in God, will I be able to eat food?” and they answered, “Yes.” So they shoved me into a car and I was taken to the church.
People there were studying and cleaning, just like the scene in the film. It felt quite abnormal so I left right away. That experience is included in the film.
Christianity and religious cults are depicted in the film. Do you have any thoughts towards religion?
I am not interested in Christianity, but in Jesus Christ. I have always wanted to shoot a film about Jesus Christ, and for that reason I thought about converting to Christianity. Kind of like a Jesus Christ Fan Club, I guess. In this film though, Christianity is depicted in order to shine a light on the religious cult, and my feelings toward Christianity are ambiguous. I do not deny it, but I don’t agree with all of the aspects. I don’t believe that we are saved from everything by becoming Christians.
You shot this 4-hour film in just 3 weeks?
Basically, we shoot every scene in one single shot. I have always shot in that style. I shoot 30 scenes a day. Before going into shooting, we rent a gymnasium, and read the script on stage and rehearse. If I can imagine how it will turn out during the rehearsals, then I become confident enough to shoot the real thing. I do not worry much about the lighting because if we start to think about lighting then there is limit to where we can place the cameras. We hardly use cameras in set positions. The camera follows the movements of the actors. Once we stop limiting the performances of the actors, after a few days, the actors start thinking through the minds of their roles. Then the shooting process starts to move quickly, and the scenes can be shot with just simple requests.
Instead of thinking of each cut, we do many takes. Not because it was not good, but we shoot the same sequence from various angles. For some scenes we shoot 20 takes. As a result, scenes are shot in long takes, but I never think something like, “Oh this long scene would be cool if it was done in just one shot.”
Basically, my movie sets have quite a laid back atmosphere. The staff seems to think I’m not serious and get suspicious of me. This makes the staff think they have to be responsible. The positive result is that everyone starts to show his or her fighting spirit.
How much of the dialogue is improvised?
To tell you the truth, there is hardly any improvisation. I’m often told that it looks improvised. That’s because we do so many takes that the dialogue comes out naturally towards the end. That is probably why it looks improvised. It’s like shooting a stage play, even when it’s closeups; it’s all taken from the same shoot, so it does not look unnatural.
There is a strong message in your films; what do you want the audience to get from your films?
I was once reading a critique of Dostoevsky, and it stuck with me. His works do not tell you the meaning, goal or the theme of life, but tell us to love life itself. I have a theme or objective when shooting a film, but more than that I want the film itself to be loved; that is my main theme in making films. Sacrificing the happiness or the humor of certain scenes so that a message can be told is something I am against. On set, we are not tied down by the theme of the film, but create what we think is most interesting at that moment. Even if the film is going in a different direction than we intended, we aren’t afraid and keep on making it – that is the spirit I have.
In Japan there is a proverb that says, “Kids grow up by looking at their fathers’ backs.” I don’t feel anything when I am being lectured, but I look at the way my father acts and I feel some sort of philosophy of his that cannot be expressed in words. I feel films are the same. In other words, if I can make something that is interesting and fun, I’ve achieved my goal, and I don’t have any goals of trying to create my original world through filmmaking.
I don’t have a particular vision. What is most important is that the film itself is loved. AI NO MUKIDASHI ultimately has a happy ending, but it was not intentional to give it a happy ending. When thinking about what type of ending fit this film, what kind of ending this story was longing for, the conclusion was a happy ending.
One thing that I want to make clear is that I don’t try to make the audience cry more than necessary. It was even written in the script that getting overly emotional was prohibited. It is not important to make the audience cry.
You used many young up and coming actors in this film; can you talk about that?
It’s just exciting to see new actors grow and develop. Takahiro has a nice way about him. You can kind of forgive him even if he dresses in drag or takes “upskirt” photos. Hikari was in one of the TV shows that I directed, and I thought she was an interesting character. Young actors change drastically as the shooting moves forward. Also Atsuro Watabe became the scariest of them all – in a good way, that is. His acting was just so natural.
Are there any last comments about the film?
This is often misunderstood, but this film is not a “freak film.” Nor is it a film about freaks. It’s about a boy who is mistaken for a freak, and about a girl who incorrectly assumes that all men are freaks. This film is purely a love story; it’s a film about those who mistake people for freaks or who themselves are mistaken for freaks. It’s not a film about “Exposed Love” but “Love Exposure.” If the title of this film were “Exposed Love,” it would have been about the emotions of love. “Love Exposure” is an object; an object known as love. Love is exposed as an object. Love is an erection, a glimpse of underwear, a secretly-snapped photo, a car chase, a fight; it changes shape and flows forth in abundance as these things. The film exposes entertainment. It attempts to smash the shell of entertainment and strip it bare. The film is nearly four hours long, but it feels as if it’s over in a flash.
Source: Phantom Films
Sono Sion’s latest film is an unconventional masterwork that throws various aspects of contemporary Japan in its wild potpourri, depicted in the framework of an epic love story. His adeptness in presenting chaos as chaos while also realizing breathless entertainment is worthy of admiration.
In: Tokyo FilmEx 2008 catalogue
The nearly four hour visually stunning epic AI NO MUKIDASHI provocatively relates the tale of Yu, an adolescent, whose life is thrown into complete turmoil upon the death of his saint-like mother. His father's response to his wife's passing is to devote himself increasingly to an extreme Catholic fervour, consequently applying enormous pressure on Yu. Desperate to find some sort of sins he can confess to his father, he delves into a bizarre underground group whose goal is to secretly photograph unsuspecting girls' panties. Here he encounters his most adored Maria, yet later unveiled she turns out to be a man-hating provocateur...
Crossing paths with other lost souls and cult groups, Yu also finds love in the most unexpected places and convoluted ways. Sono Sions's fast-paced, outrageously irreverent saga is dizzyingly inventive and hugely entertaining. His film STRANGE CIRCUS screened in the Forum in 2006.
FILMOGRAFIE Sion Sono (selection)
2008 Ai no Mukidashi (愛のむきだし)