Origin of Shadow (2017): Being A Ghost


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A puddle in the rice field reflected the shadow of the farmer. On the sidelines of the paddy plants, appeared a school of koi fish in static. Out there, some people were preparing to welcome the new year. They were busy pounding, shaping, and baking rice cake dough. These are the glimpses of the twenty-seven-minute story of the Origin of Shadow (Shuhei Hatano, 2017), that illustrates Japanese cracks in a vacuum. Shuhei Hatano brought audio material as a non-diegetic element shaping the inner atmosphere of the narrator, through the music and the sound of a person. The film put us as if we were a ghost; the one who replied to Keiko’s letters, which had actually never been received by Taichi Nogami, her husband.

The ghost’s perspective came through the freedom of the audience to observe all events, without being seen nor detected by the person being observed. In these conditions, the camera became the extension of the audience’s eyes, observing events from near and far. Sometimes we were at such a height to observe things freely. Other times, we filled the cracks, the crowd, even side by side with humans. This visual concept does not merely present as cosmetics that enhance the appearance of the film; it is beyond that.

FFD 2019 - Origin of Shadow

The ghost was there as a subject that is free from human boundaries. No time dimension, no territory, no ruling political regime. The ghost became a truly liberated subject who freely carried memories of past events to be discussed at the present time. In this position, the ghost was in the first person to experience an event in two time dimensions simultaneously.

Such perspective eventually constructed the speech materials as a subjective history, that was a depiction of collective past experiences. The stories were told chronologically, putting the narrator as an eye witness of various events—great events that the narrator experienced, saw, heard, and felt. Taichi Nogami, a Japanese soldier who participated in World War II was the narrator; the film’s opening shot presented Keiko and Taichi’s photograph. It directed our imagination to believe that the two narrators’ voices were Taichi and Keiko’s. This interpretation was strengthened through several shots in the middle of the film, in the form of symmetrical spaces, photographs of soldiers, photographs of Keiko, and flowers as the metaphor of previous shots, particularly when we, as spectators, were forced to look at water that rippled concurrently with various booming sounds.

FFD 2019 - Origin of Shadow

This concept contained the meaning of the breached time dimension. The ghost’s perspective was chosen to bridge the story experienced by the narrator in the past and the present. Ghost represents the point of view of Japanese soldiers who left and did not return for decades; however, when they did, they found everything had changed—their lovers had gone, their homes no longer available. Furthermore, the entire play of this medium directs the audience to see what the State had done to the narrator.

This film shows that the concept of visual and audio does not end as merely a form of film. Instead, these two variables are present as the accumulation of the filmmaker’s knowledge of Japan and its subjective histories.

Origin of Shadow (2017) will be screened on December 5th, 2019, at Auditorium IFI-LIP, at 2.25 p.m., along with two other Docs Docs:Short! films. Check the full schedule here.


Written by Annisa Rachmatika

Translated by Dian Pitaloka