Suzume no Tojimari finally came to India after its overwhelmingly positive response worldwide. I remember the date it was released quite vividly as this was one movie by Makoto Shinkai I waited for a long time. Preceded by Shinkai’s visit to Mumbai, the movie had a special screening on April 9th, 2023, before its official release in India on April 21st, 2023.
I went to watch the movie the very next day on a PVR IMAX screen. I wasn’t surprised that the theater was packed and the experience of watching the movie on IMAX was absolutely scintillating. From the story, to the character complexities, to the music, to the intricate themes, the movie, now, has a special place in my heart.
However, a voice deep down is still debating if this was Shinkai’s best.
First Thoughts on Shinkai’s Movies and Suzume:
Suzume no Tojimari began with the titular character Suzume dreaming about searching for her mother in an abandoned neighborhood after the 2011 Earthquake in Japan.
Just like his previous movies like Your Name and Weathering with You, Shinkai began his movies with the onset of a natural calamity. Though the visuals of the disaster in all his movies are quite picturesque, this has become his signature of sorts.
Shinkai begins his movies with the end of events that define the movie. It is mostly shown as a dream of the protagonist. Quite a few directors have tried to begin their story with a dream sequence, but only a handful of them could successfully execute it. Shinkai is one of them.
The story progressed further and Suzume met a mysterious man who asked her for any ruins in town. Then one mistake led to another and Suzume landed up in trouble with Souta as they began their search for the doors. They needed to close the doors to avoid disasters after Suzume removed a certain cat statue which turned into a menacing, mischievous cat named Daijin.
Daijin is a notoriously cute cat who plays a very critical role in the movie. He is wildly misunderstood from the start. But all he wanted was to be loved and cared for.
An interesting aspect of Shinkai’s movies is the way the protagonist sets on a journey with an absolute stranger and makes it seem like they have known each other for a very long time.
Suzume and Souta were absolute strangers. It makes me wonder; how can someone trust each other without knowing them. Suzume went out of the way to help Souta and close doors, to the extent that she kept her aunt in the dark about her whereabouts and traveled with a stranger for days. I don’t mean to be conservative and orthodox, but I found this scary.
The movie effectively delves into the complex emotional experiences of the two main characters, Suzume and Souta. It explores their pasts and the stories of individuals who have isolated themselves. Through visually striking scenes and meaningful conversations, the movie illustrates the characters’ difficulties with self-confidence and expressing their feelings.
The heated exchange between Tamaki and Suzume is a prime example of this, as the two confront their suppressed emotions and grapple with the impact they’ve had on each other’s lives. It also demonstrated the struggles of a young single parent as Tamaki was never able to bring any man home because of Suzume, so as to not set a bad example for her.
The friendship between Tamaki and Serizawa was refreshing and entertaining. The gradual bonding between the characters showed the potential of a romantic relationship in the future which I think Shinkai could’ve shown as he is someone who believes that age is trivial in love and companionship.
The film skillfully balances moments of grief with messages of hope for the future, leaving the audience with a sense of catharsis. The pacing is spot on, delivering consistent thrills and captivating character development. Overall, the film is a compelling and satisfying watch, with intriguing characters that stay with you long after the credits roll.
Color Schemes, Lighting, Overarching Themes:
Makoto Shinkai’s latest film has propelled him from a niche director to a well-known household name in Japan, although it seems he’s not entirely comfortable with the attention. Despite the change in overall tone and style, it’s evident that the movies he makes are still a quintessential Shinkai production. Overall, it’s impressive to witness a filmmaker’s evolution and growth while staying true to their unique creative vision.
Makoto Shinkai’s signature style is unmistakable, both visually and narratively. He employs a heightened sense of reality, with objects that appear unnaturally shiny and colors that are vibrant and saturated.
Shinkai’s use of lighting is particularly notable, as he often creates a stark contrast between areas in shadow and those that are illuminated. This contrast serves to highlight textures and accentuate the mood of the scene. Overall, Shinkai’s distinctive visual style is a crucial aspect of his filmmaking, and it’s one of the many reasons why his work is so memorable and captivating.
On the broader scheme of things, Shinkai’s prominent theme in Suzume is the definition of love – something that surpasses age, distance, time, nature and even bodies. He employs nature as motifs to depict these relationships. Shinkai tends to avoid pigeonholing relationships into the category of “romance.”
He portrays relationships that can stem from admiration or unrequited love, which don’t require labels. For instance, Suzume’s affection for Sota may not be perceived as a conventional “romance” that viewers are accustomed to, but rather, it’s a profound connection that transcends words. Shinkai’s approach to depicting relationships that don’t fit into neat categories is a testament to his ability to capture the complexity of human connections on the big screen.
Another prominent theme in Suzume is the definition of “Family”. According to him, families are not always blood related. They are forged with bonds as you meet them along the way in life. As the movie began, we saw that Suzume’s family was her aunt Tamaki. But later she met Rumi, Chika, Souta and Serizawa who ultimately ended up bonding with Suzume that I think is going to go a long way if Shinkai ever plans on making a sequel of the movie.
It is interesting to note that Makoto Shinkai shared in an interview that he found inspiration for a three-legged chair in one of his films from a real-life chair he spotted in a park. This anecdote highlights Shinkai’s attentiveness to his surroundings and his ability to turn ordinary objects into significant visual motifs. The film also emphasizes the beauty in everyday moments, such as Suzume’s interactions with the children of a local bar owner, the process of Suzume’s mother making a chair, the warmth of the sun, and the fleeting presence of birds. Overall, the film encourages viewers to appreciate the simple joys of life and the small details that can make a big impact.
The movie’s music has a overwhelming emotional impact, that serves its purpose of being a beautiful and memorable ode to the characters’ journeys.
Japanese rock band RADWIMPS and composer Kazuma Jinnouchi created soundtracks that standout for featuring elements of chaos and harmony that resonated with the movie’s tone. Soundtracks like Suzume are also refreshingly different from the band’s typical music.
The background scores not only set the mood, but also act as a catalyst in storytelling, highlighting important scenes and conveying emotions of characters clearly. The combination of powerful and chaotic music coupled with dramatic scenes of characters closing doors were a bang for the buck as it emphasizes on the emotional buoyancy of the moments. As a RADWIMPS fan, it was a pleasant surprise to witness the band’s versatility and seamless integration of their soundtracks and background scores with the movie’s narrative.
Suzume and Souta didn’t light up the skies and make you feel mush with their unconventional love story and companionships like Mitsuha and Taki from Your Name and Hodaka and Amano from Weathering with You, they leave an impression nevertheless.
Suzume takes the time to develop both its story and characters, unlike Your Name. The film boasts a strong cast of supporting characters, who may not have a significant amount of screen time but leave a lasting impact.
What sets Suzume apart is its captivating characters, each facing their own unique challenges that kept me invested in their journey. The suspenseful plot kept me on the edge of my seat, eagerly anticipating what came next. Overall, Suzume is a well-crafted film that delivered an engaging and thought-provoking viewing experience.
The funny part is since Suzume is all about traveling dimensions through “doors”, it reminds me of Doraemon, for obvious reasons.