Friday, 12 June 2020

Harmonium [2016]

The fragility of domestic equilibrium is the dominant theme in Harmomium, Kōji Fukada’s tense and somber film, simmering with ominous apprehensions. He captured this through deft combination of multiple elements that imbued this taut melodrama with a touch of noir – familial fissures, arrival of an enigmatic stranger, infidelity borne out of midlife crisis, sins of the past that comes to haunt the present, and how an offspring can at times consume the lives of its parents. Toshio (Kanji Furutachi), a terse machinist who spends most of his time in his garage workshop, and his caring but neglected and deeply lonely wife Akie (Mariko Tsutsui), are in a loveless marriage barely held together courtesy their kid daughter Notaru. The dynamic starts undergoing a shift upon the arrival of Yasaka (Tadanobu Asano) – a recently released convict shrouded in mystery, with possibly a dark shared past with Toshio – and, despite his seemingly stoic demeanour, he gets integrated into the nuclear family by helping Notaru play the harmonium that she’s struggling to learn, and in turn developing an affecting kinship with the emotionally discontented Akie which gradually traverses from the platonic to the carnal. However, the delicate stability inevitably snaps when Notaru suffers a crippling injury that leaves her paralyzed, and Yasaka, who may or may not be responsible for that, vanishes from their lives. As the film fast-forwards to eight years later, grief, estrangement, guilt and obsessions have by now taken the family to the precipice. Stunning performances by all – especially an absolutely wrenching one by Tsutsui – along with the minimalist usage of a melody by the Indian bard Rabindranath Tagore, suffused a haunting, viscerally discordant atmosphere to this formally rigorous film.

Director: Koji Fukada
Genre: Drama/Family Drama/Mystery
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan

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