Monday, September 11, 2006

Hana (Hana Yori Mo Naho)

Hana is the latest work from director and screenwriter Hirokazu Kore-eda. Kore-eda has previously been at the festival with such films as After Life and Nobody Knows. Hana is his first period piece, set at the beginning of the 18th century, when the power of the samurai was waning, gradually being supplanted by a rising merchant class.

The film focuses on a small slum in Edo, where a motley collection of characters lives. The main character in this group is a young samurai, Sozaemon Aoki, played by Junichi Okada, who was formerly a pop singer with the group V6, and reminded me of a Japanese Ioan Gruffudd. Aoki is in Edo to find his father's killer and avenge his death. But Aoki is an ineffectual samurai at best, and he cannot reconcile himself to the vengeful, honour-bound code he is supposed to follow. Adding to his distraction is Osae, a pretty widow (played by Rie Miyazawa) and her son, both of whom help him to discover a different course in life.

Hana subverts the usual conventions of the samurai drama and in some way condemns the endless cycle of vengeance and retribution as self-destructive and even absurd; it instead posits a more forgiving attitude and outlook on life. Occurring at a time of social upheaval and change, this different take on the genre is refreshing and has reverberations into today. Okada acquits himself well in the role of Aoki, and the drama of the film is lightened by the comic characters that surround him.

Directory Hirokazu Kore-eda was in attendance and did a Q&A after the film:

  • When asked if there were any difficulties in shooting a period film, Kore-eda replied that he had to get used to the time required to fit all the wigs. Also, most of his previous films were shot on 16 mm film using available light, whereas here he had to wait for lighting crews to set the lighting. He joked that with all the waiting time he ate candy and gained weight as a result.
  • The portrayal of the 47 ronin in the film is satirical; why did he go in that direction? He replied that people of his generation have grown up watching the Chushingura in one form or another and it is played every year in mid-December when the actual events are said to have taken place. It is always portrayed as heroic, embodying the bushido or warrior spirit. Hana is his take on the story with some comedic points of view thrown in.
  • The title 'Hana' doesn't refer to anything (although it seemed like a bird in the film was named Hana). The full name of the film in Japanese is a line from the death poem that the lord who was forced to kill himself, in the story of the 47 ronin, writes before his death, regretting that he had not been able to avenge his enemy before his death.
  • Hana also means 'flower' in Japanese. Historically, the cherry blossom has been a metaphor for the bravery of a warrior, seeking his own death. Kore-eda wanted to revise or update the metaphor to have a different take on it.
  • Kore-eda was asked if he was influenced by Akira Kurosawa, especially Dodesukaden. He said he loved that film, as well as The Lower Depths, that portrays a group of people who live in abject poverty. He told his actors to portray the people from The Lower Depths, but in a Dodesukaden kind of more upbeat way.
  • Akira Kurosawa's daughter actually designed the costumes for Hana.


Thank you so much for the recap of the director Q&A on this movie. I'm a keen Junichi Okada watcher and I think he is one of the best young actors around in Japan. So good to hear your positive review of the movie. Looking forward to watching it soon!

randomly stumbled here whilst googling for hana yori mo naho ;)

i've been looking forward to this movie ever since i've heard of it - i loved kore-eda's nobody knows & am a huge fan of okada (who is still with the pop group V6 btw ^_^ they just celebrated their 11th anniversary earlier this month) i already ordered the dvd & can't wait for it to arrive.

I think Okada Junichi looks like Gruffud too! Especially the Gruffud in Amazing grace :)

My experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival. Note this blog is not affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival Group or the festival itself.
Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites