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- Movie: Heaven's Story
- Romaji: Hevunzu sutorii
- Japanese: ヘヴンズ ストーリー
- Director: Takahisa Zeze
- Assistant Director: Takeo Kikuchi
- Writer: Yuki Sato
- Producer: Daisuke Asakura
- Cinematographer: Atsuhiro Nabeshima, Koichi Saito
- Release Date: October 2, 2010
- Runtime: 278 min.
- Genre: Drama
- Language: Japanese
- Country: Japan
Plot Synopsis by AsianWiki Staff ©
A young girl named Sato (adult version played by Moeki Tsuruoka) watches on television as a man named Tomoki (Tomoharu Hasegawa) states brazenly at a press conference that he hopes convicted murderer Mitsuo (Shugo Oshinari) is eventually placed back into society so that he can kill him with his bare hands.
Mitsuo was a troubled runaway teenager who came from a highly dysfunctional family. He followed a woman who was Tomoki's wife as she pushed her baby in a stroller across a bridge and down in front of the stream. Mitsuo then bludgeoned to death Tomoki's wife and drowned their infant baby. He then raped the deceased woman's body.
Meanwhile, Sato's parents were also murdered and she now lives with her grandfather. Sato, even though she was only 8-years-old, was suicidal, but after seeing Tomoki on television decides to live on. Her hero is now Tomoki.
As the years pass, Sato checks the newspaper daily on Mitsuo's release and possible revenge murder by Tomoki. Meanwhile, Tomoki has remarried and finally gained back a semblance of normality in his life. This is all shattered when Sato visits Tomoki and informs him that Mitsuo has been released from prison....
Additional Cast Members:
Q&A with dir. Takahisa Zeze
Q&A took place after a screening of "Heaven's Story" at the 2011 Jeonju International Film Festival
on May 2nd, 2011. AsianWiki editor Ki Mun
was there and transcribed/translated the session.
- Moderator: "Could you give a brief greeting?"
- Takahisa Zeze: "Hello, thank you for watching such a long film. This movie is based on the true story of a 19-year-old man who killed a woman and her child. The man who lost his family held a press conference and said he was going to kill that 19-year-old man. I made this movie based on that case. After 10 years of court battles the man in real life received the death sentence, but the movie goes in another direction. When such a case happens in real life usually only the victim's side is reported. I wanted to cover the story from the perpetrator's side as well."
- Moderator: "I understand you planned this film for a long time and it took a long time to make. Why did it take such a long time?"
- Takahisa Zeze: "In 2006, I began to plan for the movie. In 1989 I debuted making pink films. I made these kinds of movies for 10 years. Since 1997, I started making mainstream films. At that time I felt I came to a standstill. I felt there was no way out. I thought I wanted to shoot movies like when I shot independent films back in school. I wanted to go back to that starting point. This movie deals with a real case. I made movies before dealing with true stories, but those films from the past, even thought it dealt with real life cases, felt like stories that belonged to the person next door and not mine. For 10 years my wife can be a victim of a criminal or my son can be the killer. Japanese society has changed. I felt fear. This spring in japan, the devastating earthquake struck. Before, we only watched earthquakes on TV. That is not my fault or someone else's fault. That tragedy just happened ... like crimes. Crime just happens. Not my fault or someone else's fault. The world is like this. I made this movie to think about the meaning behind that. I received help from other people so I was able to begin shooting for the film in the summer of 2008. The movie took one and a half years to finish. I shot 5 separate times. The first shooting took 10 days and I made 2 stories. In the movie, the children grow up, so shooting took place in that order. Filming would finish then I would edit and watch the results. At that time I would find something missing. During the next shooting stage, I would change the scenario. Generally, the ending scene was decided before filming, but I changed the scenario right before filming the last scene. After shooting that last scene, we edited the footage and I decided to change the scenario. Shot again. While making this film I did think a lot.
- Moderator: "What was the original final scene?"
- Takahisa Zeze: "The original ending had the boy standing and looking at his family, there wasn't any hugging. After editing, something was lacking so changed the scene."
- Moderator: "Haruki's story was fun to me, so I will ask first about Haruki. When he was young, he was very bright, but became defiant. Mitsuo, meanwhile, was tough. During the ending sene, Haruki and Mitsuo meet. One goes toward the living and the other goes toward death. Curious what kind of character is Haruki?"
- Takahisa Zeze: "When I was an assistant director for a pink film I interviewed a famous pink movie actress Toyomaru. I asked her to tell me about some childhood memories. She mentioned that her family ran a small tobacco store. In front of the store was a bus stop. She was always with her grandmother there. She liked watching the shoes of the people getting on and off the buses. Where they came from and went. I was impressed by her statement. With Haruki, he was also watched people coming and going on the ferry. Haruki's actions were inspired by that statement from the pink movie actress. People during their childhood years people seem to yearn for some other place. Wanting to go somewhere. Haruki is like that. The last scene, Haruki finally goes to another place. Wish to have a bright future. When he was young, Mitsuo travelled a lot. But at the end of his travels he committed a horrific crime. Haruki and Mitsuo express characters from the outside and inside. I also wanted to use directly opposing images like the apartment complex near the beach and the abandoned building on the mountain to express this. When I was making TV documentaries, I knew a photographer who took pictures of abandoned buildings, bridges and also buildings that were being constructed. He said taking pictures of demolished buildings and buildings that were being constructed looked the same. So I always thought that the apartment complex on the beach would eventually end up an abandoned place like the abandoned building on the mountain. For example, in the first episode, while the grandfather goes out to get medicine there is a boy running away. The boy looks at a statue of a woman holding a baby. Meanwhile, Mitsuo killed a mother and a baby ... and there is the scene of Mitsuo holding up a baby. Comparing these scenes, when the boy looks at the statue he feels curiosity for life ... that life is great. To Mitsuo, the baby's crying is fear. So even doing the same thing, can see different things. The last scene, I contrasted dying and being born. When I shot the baby being born, I wanted it to look realistic. We contacted an acquaintance and got their help. We were on stand-bye at the hospital for a few days to shoot the scene of the baby's birth. We couldn't even drink because we didn't know when the baby would arrive. I eventually received a phone call from the hospital at about 2 AM. The staff got to the hospital around 3 AM. We did film the birth and that scene showed an actual birth of a baby.
- Moderator: "In the movie I was impressed with the line "please do not die, but at last all died." At that time somebody was born. I think you have a standard to choose whether some characters lives or dies. Dead people somehow connects to that responsibility."
- Takahisa Zeze: Basically the older generation passes on something to the next generation. I chose the young people to survive. Haruki and Sato survived. Like you said, there is a responsibility. For example, Tomoki states on TV he will kill with his own hands. I thought he should take responsibility for what he said. I get questioned often whether Tomoki and Mitsuo should have killed each other. Isn't there any other endings? In fact, I did not want any ambiguity. So that was why I made the final battle scene with those two characters and happen that way. In the real world, like 9/11, revenge and being revenged, with America's realtionship with Iran. While I was shooting, I thought about what answers I should bring out. The title of this movie is "Heaven's Story." Heaven in English refers to Christian ideas, but I wasn't referring to the Christian context. I have an Asian idea. I thought about how to deal with this kind of world. I felt living people and living things and dead people and things are in the same space. For example, a story often told by grandmothers to childhood is that God exists even in the grass, stone and sky and our ancestors are gods as well. When I made a prior film I met a person who performed a doll show and watched his doll show for the first time. I think when you watch my movie, you can see the moment that during the doll play, the dead dolls look alive and the person manipulating the dolls looks dead. Living and dead change at that moment. I was shocked when I felt that moment while watching that doll show. I made this movie with this kind of thought about the living and the dead not being separated. The person who performed the doll play in the movie ... the movie was released in September, 2010 and he went into the hospital for a bone-marrow transplant the same month and died that month. I thought he took things that appeared in the movie with him to Heaven.
- Moderator: "In the movie, Kyoko and Mitsuo watched the doll play. The relationship between Kyoko and Mitsuo resembles the doll and the person manipulating the doll. What is the relationship between Kyoko and Mitsuo? What is your intetion with Kyoko making dolls? When Kyoko died, she looked like a doll. Did you intend that?"
- Takahisa Zeze: "Kyoko watched TV in the hospital and found out about Mitsuo then. Mitsuo said he wanted to be remembered by the unborn. That line is from Shoko Asahara of the Aum Shinrikyo cult group (group that released sarin gas in the Tokyo subway). After Shoko Asahara received the death penalty sentence, a reported asked Shoko Asahara what kind of person would you like to be in the future. Shoko Ashara replied that he wanted to be more famous. The reporter said that you are already famous. Shoko Asahara replied that he wanted to be remembered by the unborn. I heard that on TV and used the line in the movie. Shoko Asahara killed many people, but what he said sounded to me like innocent words. When I realized that I was shocked. I realized the essence of a thing you can't know by watching only side. That is why I gave that line to Mitsuo. Like those words itself sounds pure, in the movie I wanted to describe the relationship between Kyoko and Mitsuo in a pure way. I wanted to describe their relationship beyond love. I set Kyoko as a character who lived her whole life making dolls. She had no sincere meaning in her life. Kyoko is played by Hako Yamazaki, a folk singer. She always sings gloomy songs. I am a fan of hers. Her normal weight is only 35 kgs, but while she acted in the movie, she lost 2 kilograms. She told me that she wanted to die like a doll. If you write doll in the Chinese character, 人形. 人 means person, 形 means shape. The doll has the shape of a person, but isn't a person. Yet, some moments in the film you feel the doll does have a mind. I thought that moment was funny. Also, in the movie can see the skin of the cicada insect. That it is just a shape but not a living creature. In the past that skin used to have a living creature. Haruki feels life is there. I think Haruki is very attractive."
- Audience Question: "In the last episode, the dead watch the living. Other 2 people look at them directly, but I felt Kyoko and Mistuo were just there."
- Takahisa Zeze: "Everyone is afraid of dying and does not want to die, but people die someday. For the first time, Kyoko and Mitsuo felt comfortable after they died. Their relationship is beyond love. They got on the bus and went to heaven. In fact, Mitsuo's "I want to be remembered by the unborn," is selfish, but towards end of the film Mitsuo found a pregnant woman who collapsed. Mitsuo said that the pregnant woman's baby is our baby and wanted to take good care of the baby. For the first time, Mitsuo delivered his thoughts to the unborn and that was the last time for him. Mitsuo killed somebody's child, but in the end, asked to take good care of a baby. That is a huge change. Such change is important."
- Audience Question: "This movie is about revenge. What is your opinion on revenge? Do you think revenge can be justified?"
- Takahisa Zeze: "I think I understand the mindset that wants to get revenge. Actually carrying out the revenge is a different thing. The most important thing is not to have that mindset for revenge and a society where there is no need for revenge. I want to keep thinking about humans can be saved in the future."
- Audience Question: "I am curious if you were influenced by Akira Kurosawa's 'Rashomon ' - like taking home videos, first zoom in a little bit and stop and zoom in again?"
- Takahisa Zeze: "I haven't been asked before if I was influenced by Akira Kurosawa. I shot with a small hand held video camera. I did this because I wanted to give the impression that the audience were in the center of the action, give the impression that movie was shot by an amateur and not a professional. Like a documentary or home video. That is the reason. I wanted to give the feeling that the audience were experiencing a real situation."
- Audience Question: "In the movie, when the woman gave birth, the baby did not cry. What was your intention with that scene?"
- Takahisa Zeze: "There was no intention. The baby actually did not cry when it was born. Not all babies cry when they are born ... a lot of births you see in movies and drama series are dramatized."
- Audience Question: "Before the revenge started ... spring, summer, fall, winter, Christmas ... the seasons changed. Is there intention for the seasonal changes? Also about the running time. Did you initially plan to make such a long film or while shooting extended the running time?"
- Takahisa Zeze: "In the movie, with the the four seasons I wanted to depict time. I wanted to describe 10 years. I wanted to describe the baby growing up. That's why the movie contained four seasons. For example, different characters in the episode for spring and different characters for summer, but during Christmas the characters are somehow connected from the other episodes. This is because on Christmas people are happy and excited and I wanted to shoot all the characters coming together on Christmas. About the running time. Theater staff don't like movies with 4 hour and 38 minutes running time. Anyways, I made a movie with a 4 hour and 38 minute running time so I can't do anything about it now. At first, when I wrote the script, I thought the movie would be a 3 hour film. While shooting the movie and changing the script the running time got longer. After watching this movie some people said they felt like they finished a trip. The audience also worries more about whether the movie could be commercially successful. It is ok to make this kind of movie. I would like this movie released in Korea in general theaters, but shown only 2 times a day. If this movie could be shown in Korea, please help. "
- Moderator: "Time for the Q&A has ended. Could you provide some last words?"
- Takahisa Zeze: "When I was shooting this movie and when it was released in theaters, I got help from many people. What I felt was hope from the movie. Today, I feel that as well."
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