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AUGUST IN THE WATER

Japan, 2000 (MIFF 2001, Electric Angels – The Films of Ishii Sogo)

Director: Ishii Sogo

Astronomical anomalies scar the heavens as twin meteorites fall to Earth. Strange phenomena begin to assail Fukuoka; a drought blights the region and people begin to die terribly, falling prey to the 'Stone Disease', a virus that slowly petrifies their internal organs. Isima, a teenage diving champion, transfers to the local high school. She soon attracts the romantic attention of Mao but after a near-fatal diving accident, falls into a coma. Upon awakening, Isima exhibits an otherworldly detachment from reality and has an instinctual understanding of the events signalled by the arrival of the pair of meteorites. Stylistically, the film admirably eschews expensive visual effects in its portrayal of esoteric occurrences, settling for natural lighting, brightly lit exteriors, rapid multiple-angle credits, and abstracted close-ups of natural phenomena (akin to the hyper-conspiratorial Pi. (PI), MIFF 1998).

In this regard it has been compared to Tarkovsky's alternate reality, sci-li classic, Solaris, in that it creates a meditative blank canvas on to which viewers can project their own interpretations of events. Hints of extra­terrestrial interference, ancient mysticism (an element that surfaced again later in Gojoe), and scientific meddling abound, in a tale framed within a gentle romance and propelled by stupendous cinematography and music. Exceptional work.

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