Distance (2001)

Arata Iura, Yûsuke Iseya, Susumu Terajima, Yui Natsukawa,
Distance is a movie starring Arata Iura, Y?suke Iseya, and Susumu Terajima. Members of a cult, modeled on Aum Shinrikyo, sabotage a city's water supply, then commit mass suicide near the shores of a lake. Family members of those...
  • 6.8 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Writer:
  • Hirokazu Koreeda, Director:
  • Masayuki Akieda, Producer:
8 / 10

My view from a Distance

looking at SSTOCKER1's question and YAKUZA BENGOSHI's comments on the movie, I'd like to offer my take on Koreeda's great exercise of Dogma-style film-making. That said, I don't think it is necessary for us to "get" the story just by identifying the roles of the characters. For example, YAKUZA BENGHOSHI proposes that the mysterious arson/impostor is the son of the cult-leader. But is that a necessary assumption? Does he have to be the son of the leader to feel that kind of emotional attachment to the clan?

And aren't most members to cult-groups considered "children" to their respective leaders? (e.g. Guyana, Waco, and Serin gas attack in Japan)

The mysterious impostor (played by ARATA)was, if nothing else, at least the link to more than one of the dead members whose relatives joined him on this particular memorial outing. Remember, he is the childhood friend to one of the dead member's brother--medical student,as well as being a friend to the dead female member--Yuko, to whom he claims as his sister.

Could he be a recruiter who introduced the cult to 2 of the dead members (i.e. the lifeguard's brother, and the dead flower-shop girl)? What if he was also the one assigned to light the fire to which many of the cult members were killed by?

The scene by the river with our mystery man discussing his faith with Yuko seems to propose the idea that this WAS her introduction to the cult. Notice the scenes showing his use of photo-shop to paste himself into the girl's family photo, along with short clips of the mystery man burning photos in the back of the hut (in flash-back form) were both inserted thru-out the film. The consistent association with fire (i.e. the act of burning)could possibly imply his motive at the gathering as his way to rid his guilt for having to end his friends' lives... by helping the others find closure, he ends up resolving his own pain--having met the family of the dead, he finds relief & a way to move on.

Notice all the dead cult members in the story joined the clan b/c of being lost (e.g. loss of love or lack of self-worth)... that is, except for the lifeguard's brother who thought the clan offered a way for him to justify his existence and talent as a physician. The housewife felt abandoned by her husband, her companion lacked self-esteem... the flower-shop girl couldn't deal with her brother's suicide, and the teacher felt confined by the existing education system, thinking it hindered his good will and talent to benefit society, etc... Whereas we don't really know why Mr. Imposter became a member. He seemed to have been ambivalent to his purpose in life, and perhaps he felt the cult was the only place where he found a sense of purpose. We know he wanted to heal people, and we know he felt the cult was the answer and antidote to the others'pain.

so many questions to a great story that probably didn't warrant having to endure the first 20 minutes to the film (which showed the group getting lost in the woods)... but if you can survive the first 20 minutes, the rest is all worth the wait...

DISTANCE (2001) is not as good and entertaining a film as AFTERLIFE (1997), but Koreeda managed to show again how good stories don't need a huge budget, sets, and lots of CG gadgets to turn into a great piece of cinema.

can't wait to see his latest film - NOBODY KNOWS (2004)

9 / 10

Slow paced and ultra realistic.

This film explores the developing relationships between five individuals in their late twenties. The group is linked by being related to people who were part of a tragic suicide/terrorist cult in Japan.

I am a big fan of realism in cinema, and this one didn't disappoint. Most of the film is set deep in the forest. It follows the group as they pay their yearly respects to those lost in the suicide. After finding themselves stuck in the woods, they are forced to take refuge in a nearby hut which was previously inhabited by the cult members.

Much of the movie contains stunted and realistic dialog between the group, talking about the cult and touching on philosophy. Their is so much authenticity in the way they act that you feel as though you are part of the group, listening to the conversations.

There is some plot although I was a bit lost until I read other IMDb comments afterwards. I also felt it ran a bit long towards the end (around 150 minutes). But there are three elements in this film that made it enjoyable for me: it was focused on a small group of individuals, it was realistic, and it had great acting.

10 / 10

A Film about Coexistence, Life, Death and... Consequences

Forget Dogma 95. This is real fiction. A stunning picture about a group of people touched by a tragedy: The killings of the Supreme Truth sect and their subsequent collective suicide. Amazing cinematography, superb acting. A must see film.

10 / 10

Mapping Kore-eda

Don't look here for answers to 9/11 or the Aum incident. Best tries for that would be read Haruki Murakami's "Underground" (Vintage International 2001) or see Shinji Aoyama's "Eureka." "Distance" has two significant sets. First is a dirt road through a skyless (camera doesn't look up) forest. A group connected in various ways with former Aum members, come to honor the tragedy but stranded by a car breakdown, take forever deciding whether to walk backward or forward. Suspense builds, a little like that around the host and guests unable to leave in Bu?uel's "Exterminating Angel." The sole Aum vet among them (he got out before the serin) offers a third option, essentially go sideways (almost as if Bu?uel's crowd had decided to walk out toward the camera or away from it through a wall), leading to the second significant set, a not quite barracks-like abandoned Aum building. Discussion there, centering on the building's dispersed inhabitants, reminds of the Aum member interviews in the second half of "Underground." The ending's ambiguous, so ambiguous that four months later, I can't remember it other than in images.

What I do recall is Director Kore-eda speaking after my screening. Though he'd been forthcoming throughout the rest of the Q and A, when two or three people challenged the ending he began excusing and apologizing, seeming to second-guess his edits. I'm not sure he should have apologized. Strictly in images, the film has a beginning, center, and end: the road in; the bright (even at night electrically and the bridge and lake that figure in one of the tales are more brightness) heart of darkness; the road out. Last thing I remember, though I'm not sure it was right at the end, is a bright, franchise-looking shop, one of the group running in to get something.