LWLies meets Japanese maestro Hirokazu Kore-eda, director of the scintillating rite of passage adventure movie, I Wish.
LWLies: What qualities were you looking for when casting the two young brothers, Koki Maeda and Ohshirô Maeda?
Hirokazu Kore-eda: Since I do not give the scripts to the young actors, I was looking for kids who can get out their own words when I give them the situations. Then, I met those brothers and they were so full of life that I wanted to change the originally scripted settings of the project and just film them naturally.
They were just so radiant. Initially, the main characters were a boy and a girl, and the story was more gloomy; the parents get divorced and need to move to the countryside, from Tokyo to Kagoshima, and the kids can't get used to this new environment. But then met those boys and I ended up changing the story to a very positive one, congruent with the atmosphere of [teen Japanese comedy duo] Maeda Maeda.
This film was made in collaboration with Shinkansen trains – how was it different making a film with a private commercial partner with a product to sell than, say, a film production company?
They were very understanding of what I wanted to make, so I did not need to change the way I work. I would have backed away from the project if they had told me my script did not contain enough advertising for their bullet trains. I do not think I could work with this model all the time though.
Was the experience of working with and directing the young cast similar to when you made Nobody Knows? Do you feel you have you refined your techniques in the years since that film?
I think Nobody Knows and I Wish are very different films. We cast non-professional kids for Nobody Knows while the brothers of I Wish were in the industry and had acting experience, especially the older brother Koki.
Over the years, I've probably learned how to better draw out the charm from each kid. It’s important to know how to find kids with whom you can communicate. But what’s more important is how to assemble them on the screen. When working on Nobody Knows we were casting for brothers and sisters coming from the same background, but for I Wish, we were casting for roles with different backgrounds (friends or classmates), so it was difficult yet fun journey. In baseball terms, I suppose that as I got older, the speed of my straight pitch got slower, but now I could throw a variety of pitches. And I can mix them up better.
The acoustic soundtrack seems key to the tone of this film. How did you commission it how important is music in general to your movie making process.
When I thought of kids running, I thought we should use rock music. I could hear the sound of electric guitar. It did not turn out that way, but when I thought of the trains, I thought of the Japanese music group Quruli. If you categorise their music as rock, then, I thought they’d be the best. I told them which parts of the film I had in mind to incorporate the music, but did not ask them specific orders. They watched the film and came up with the score freely.
Music is very important, yet, if you do not need it, then, it is best you don’t use it. I believe it is best that you position the sound of life (trains, crossing gates, volcanic eruptions, etc) as music. It is important to always think which sounds would enrich each scene. Music has the power to destroy that too, so I am always careful with how I use it.
Is the story to I Wish based on any formative experience of your own?
No. I had lot of time being alone as a kid but I enjoyed playing by myself and reading. For the making of this film I got the kids to create stories and characters and then I incorporated them into the work.
Could you describe how you go about writing a screenplay – do you favour seclusion or do you like to have people around you to discuss ideas and scenes? Or something else?
The first idea comes when I am on the train or an airplane – when I am on my way to somewhere. Sometimes they come when I'm in the bed of an overseas hotel room. So it is part of my important production process to attend international film festivals. LOL.
When I finish the first draft, I ask people to read it and incorporate their ideas and opinions. It is important to have different points of view in the process of writing a script.
In the recent Sight & Sound greatest film poll you selected Ken Loach's Kes as one of your all-time favourites. Could you talk about why you're so fond of that film and whether it had any influence on I Wish?
I like everything about Kes: the solitude of the boy; the sympathy we feel for him. It is too beautiful. It is cruel. Not a chocolate box movie. I suppose I learned how to film kids or non-professional actors from directors like Ken Loach and Hou Hsiao-hsien.
We understand you have just completed another movie – could you tell our readers a little but about it and when we might be able to see it?
It is in post production now! I wish you have a chance to screen the film sometime in the fall. I wish to come to London again!