Irene Falvey meets a giant talkative frog, a lost cat and a schizophrenic accountant in Pierre Földes collection of short animated stories.
Blind Willow, Sleeping Women, written and directed by Pierre Földes screened as part of the Dublin International Film Festival 2023. Adapted from the Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s collection of short stories of the same name, this film employs subtle and dream-like animation to depict the unique oscillation between the everyday and the imaginative that pervades Murakami’s writing. The animation relies mostly on soft muted colour tones which help evoke the foreboding sense of loneliness and tragedy that pervades this feature’s narrative; while also popping in bright vivid primary tones of blue and green to heighten the moments of magic realism.
The events of this film follow the devastation of an earthquake and tsunami which occurred in Japan; through choosing this disruptive moment in society the narrative is able to explore a fundamental aspect of tragedy: everybody suffers, but how people experience suffering greatly differs. With that in mind it could be argued that the film is looking at the more internal effects of disaster rather than the outward evident effects.
The film mostly follows two different people, both employees of Tokyo Security Trust Bank. The first employee has just been left by his wife and must piece together how their love evaporated, the second follows a put-upon nobody accountant who is tasked with accomplishing a noble feat. Our introduction to the first employee and his wife is a clear example of how you can suffer in a personal way through exposure to other people’s loss and tragedy. In the aftermath of the earthquake the employee’s wife is completely transfixed to her TV screen, taking in all the shocking news, almost ceasing to exist herself – completing ignoring her husband until she leaves him with the parting sucker punch of a goodbye note that declares something which equates to “living with you is like living with a chunk of air”. This storyline is grounded in reality, a shocking natural disaster spurring ordinary people to de-stabilise their own personal equilibrium just as mother nature has done to their external surroundings.
While disaster can make some people analyse their own current reality, other reactions in this narrative tend to veer more so to the imaginative end of the spectrum. The put-upon accountant, who is basically unlucky in every way – not handsome, not rich, not loved, not respected by his boss or colleagues, bizarrely comes into contact with a human-sized, walking, talking (and philosopher quoting) frog. Mr. Frog, who prefers to be called Frog, chooses this nobody to slay the metaphorical dragon that has caused the devastation of the earthquake – a giant worm that lives under the city, enraged by the disturbances he must encounter, and now seethes and seeks revenge for the disruption of the earthquake. When a character as left of field as Mr. Frog is introduced to a narrative there could be any number of ways to interpret this; in this case this anthropomorphic being helps the sad accountant to lessen the day-to-day tragedy of his existence.
Overall, this film is a dreamy and deep meditation of the effects of natural disasters on the human psyche, with the ever imaginative and unique voice of Murakami’s storytelling bought to life beautifully and entrancingly. A rich fictional world to dive into that has much to say about who we are, our lives and how we live them.