Writer and Director: Daigo Matsui
The We Are One Film Festival may have finished but some films remain on YouTube for the next few days including this oddity curated by the Tokyo Film Festival. First seen in 2018, Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops is filmed in a single take of 74 minutes and yet it covers three months in the lives of a group of teenagers rehearsing for a play that will never be staged.
The play is Morning by Simon Stephens, although that is never made clear, especially since the director, played by the film’s own director Daigo Matsui, insists that the actors keep their own names, rather than take the characters’ names. We see them rehearse scenes from the play before the producer arrives to tell them that the show has been cancelled due to poor ticket sales. If the show were to continue playing to an empty theatre it may ruin their careers forever.
This may sound quite straightforward, but when some of the actors led by Kokoro Morita refuse to stop rehearsing it becomes increasingly difficult for the viewer to know what is real life, and what is dialogue from Stephens’ play. Is Kokoro’s friend really leaving the city to go to university? Do the police really suspect Kokoro of murdering her boyfriend or are these scenes from the play that the young actors seem compelled to perform?
However, more interesting than the story is the filming and the way Matsui has organised people and space is astoundingly tight. The camera is hand held, and the actors must always be arranging themselves for when the camera returns to them, or else actors must sprint to other areas in town, ready for the camera to find them there. It must have taken weeks of rehearsal and it would be interesting to know how many takes were aborted before the cast and crew nailed it.
Despite its technical prowess, you still need a degree of patience to stick with this film as it switches from scripted dialogue to other scenes that seem, in comparison, unrehearsed, especially when the cast try out their tap dancing skills. Accompanying the actors on their journey is a musician who shouts out meaningless teenage aphorisms in a delivery style somewhere between Enimen and Allen Ginsberg. At least watching at home the volume control is always close.
Kokoro Morita is in almost every scene, and she is able to carry the film along with her, never giving too much away and making it impossible for the audience to tell if she is ‘acting’ or not. It is the enigmatic nature of the film that might keep you watching until the end. This brave but frustrating film from Matsui makes him a director to watch.
Runs here until 11 June 2020