Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Like Someone In Love

Reviews - Like Someone In Love

Like Someone In Love

Reviewed By Vaughan Ames

Like Someone In Love
Like Someone In Love
Standing in the foyer of the Alhambra after the showing of Like Someone in Love, each person's face told me instantly what they thought of the film. If they hadn't liked it, they seemed to be waking up from a good sleep; if they had loved it, there was an irrepressible smile on their face. My smile remained for some time; to me it was the best film of the season so far.

Why the huge difference of opinion? The film was definitely slow with little plot, but it was very beautiful with a strange tinge of humour. First; the plot. Akiko, a young female student has turned to prostitution to pay her way through college. She is sent to a new client in the suburbs, who turns out to be an old man who seems to be more interested in cooking her a meal than having sex; indeed when she gets into his bed, he tries to entice her back into the dining room. She falls asleep alone.

We go to the following day. The old man, Takashi, gives her a lift back to college and is waiting for her outside in his car when he sees her arguing with a young man. The man, Noriaki, starts a conversation with Takashi and gets in the car. Noriaki is her boyfriend and, assuming Takashi is Akiko’s grandfather, he tries to impress him as he wants to marry Akiko. Akiko comes back and they drive off to the car garage Noriaki owns (he has noticed a problem with the car), before Akiko is dropped at a bookshop.

Back home again, Takashi is soon interrupted by Akiko ringing him – we are lead to suppose that Noriaki has hit her. Takashi rushes off to rescue her and bring her back. Soon after, we hear Noriaki outside the flat demanding to be let in, but they ignore him. Takashi is flitting from window to window trying to see what the angry Noriaki is doing when suddenly a brick flies through the window, Takashi falls to the floor and the film ends.

Filmed almost in real time, little or nothing has happened...maybe it was a good time to catch up on lost sleep. BUT...speaking as one of those who liked the film, there was so much more to see and hear; the photography was beautiful throughout and we have been almost drip-fed bits of information about the characters by the small subplots in the story. For instance, when the film begins, the camera is focused on a young beautiful woman in a bustling bar in Tokyo. There is a girl’s voice, but no-one seems to be talking, certainly not the one we are looking at. The camera eventually pans
round and we realise the voice has come from another beautiful young woman, Akiko, talking on her mobile phone. We can glean from her half of the conversation that she is talking to someone who doesn’t trust her, who won’t believe she is where she says she is...possibly her boyfriend? Where does he think she is?

Soon, she is being persuaded by her pimp, the bar owner, to take on the client that night when she doesn't want to go. She asks "why does it have to be me?", and her pimp explains that it is an honoured friend who had asked for her, but we aren't told why. When Akiko finally gets to Takashi's house he too is on the phone. She wanders around his library-like living room, picking up pictures, one of which is very like Akiko. They also discuss a painting on the wall which Akiko also had as a child; her father had told her it was a picture of her. Is this a coincidence?

And so through the film, we never get told the whole story, just slices of the truth, half conversations on phones or just one person’s assumptions (as when Noriaki assumes Takashi is her grandfather). The camerawork is stunning throughout. For most of the time we are seeing a medium close-up of part of a scene – Akiko's face in the car when Noriaki is talking to Takashi; Akiko sitting on the step outside Takashi's flat as his neighbour spills out her life story to her. Again, much of the story is filmed inside a car where the window reflections are both beautiful and act to stop us seeing exactly what is happening, or making it seem dreamlike, through a haze.

The director, Abbas Kiarostami was born and spent much of his working life in Iran, where his films were subject to censorship or were totally banned. As he puts it, "I think they don't understand my films and so prevent them being shown just in case there is a message they don’t want to get out". This all taught him to be more and more subtle to beat the censors, leading him to being recognized as one of the world masters at this subtlety. He finally left Iran, to make "Certified Copy" in France and now "Like Someone in Love" in Japan, but his subtlety remains...

So what was it about? Well the beauty of it is that it is up to the audience to decide. Maybe nothing more than was shown or maybe he is showing that we only ever see half the story and fill in the gaps for ourselves – so the half-heard phone calls, the obscured views through windows. As in life, we base what we think we know on assumptions and previous knowledge. For me, I had begun to suspect Takashi really was Akiko's grandfather, trying his best to protect her from an unwelcome lover, but who knows; the final shot of the brick smashing the window pane brought the dream to an end and reality crashing back...

Whatever it was about, for me it was very beautiful and intriguing - a real gem.

Next week, we have "I Am Nasrine"; a very different film based on the harsh reality of life for two Iranian youths, sister and brother, forced to leave Tehran and move to Newcastle to start a new life.

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19th Keswick Film Festival

22nd-25th February 2018


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