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(Credit: Press)

Film

Short of the Week: A Japanese allegory about national trauma

'663114' - Isamu Hirabayashi
3.5

A lot of great artists have used animation to approach difficult subjects in spectacular ways, often resulting in powerful cinematic experiences that have been more effective than live-action works. Japanese filmmakers have actively engaged in this tradition, something that is evident in heartbreaking classics such as Grave of the Fireflies.

For Isamu Hirabayashi, this form of artistic expression took a different direction when he set out to make 663114. The experimental short chronicles the arduous existence of a 66-year-old cicada who leaves the earth to shed its skin after more than half a century, only to find that the world around him is crumbling.

Presented in the form of a powerful and intense monologue, the cicada asks grand questions about modernity and our history as a civilisation. This was intended to be Hirabayashi’s response to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami which devastated the country and resulted in the disastrous meltdown of Fukushima, an event that forms an integral part of the country’s national trauma.

Hirabayashi weaves the narratives into one seamless monologue, reflecting on the immediacy of the disaster as well as the historical horrors of Hiroshima. According to him, 663114 was a document of the destabilisation of the belief that the Japanese citizens had on the institutions that governed their existence.

The director reflected: “I think that the lesson from this unfortunate event is that there is major burden on the Japanese people of our generation; Can we transform into the future into one that is positive? Do we continue as ever to turn a blind eye to the principle of peace at any price? How will the increasing speed of decline turn out?”.

Watch the brilliant Japanese short 663114 below.