Harmonium (12A)

Harmonium (12A)

Directed by Koji Fukada
Picturehouse, Liverpool
30th May 2017

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

Based in a small town in Japan the film opens with the arrival of an unexpected guest at a seemingly cosy suburban home.

The presence of stony-faced Yasaka (Tadanobu Asano) brings about tragic and deeply psychological consequences for this family unit, comprising Toshio (Kanji Furutachi), his wife Akie (Mariko Tsutsui) and daughter Hotaru (Momone Shinokawa).

The latter constantly practises on a harmonium at her home, often ineptly, in preparation for a school concert. I played and composed music on such a musical instrument many years ago.

I am not sure whether director Koji Fukada meant the title to be an ironic comment on what lies in store for Toshio’s clan, but there soon appears a distinct lack of harmony within the group, leading to tragic consequences for all of them.

Yasaka is almost immediately given a job by Toshio at his metal pressing workshop, which is attached to his home, and given lodgings there.

He soon exudes a presence, both good and evil. The good is in him helping Hotaru play the harmonium and the bad in creating a division between man and wife, with his growing affection for Akie.

Following an off-screen act of violence inflicted on Hotura, apparently but not definitely committed by Yasaka – he disappears from the town never to be seen again – leaves her paralysed and with very little mental capacity, the film jumps forward eight years.

Dark and sinister secrets are then revealed to Akie about her husband’s somewhat crime-ridden relationship with Yasaka as a young man.

The high level of stress caused by this revelation, together with the constant caring of her daughter, leads Akie to the edge of despair.

The final scene, enacted by the river near the town, with her being the perpetrator, is harrowing to watch.

Upcoming films at Liverpool Picturehouse under the heading of Discover Tuesday (all screenings start at 6pm) are Kiki, directed by Sara Jordeno (6 June); Wilson, starring Woody Harrelson and directed by Craig Johnson (13 June); Suntan, directed by Argyris Papadimitropoulos (20 June); and Love is The Devil, starring Derek Jacobi as Francis Bacon. It is directed by John Maybury (27 June).

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