I recently watched a film called The Naked Island (1960).
Set in the Seto Inland Sea, it seeks to ‘try and capture the life of human beings struggling like ants against the forces of nature’ (words of the director, Kaneto Shindo).
It is a highly realistic account of the life of a family who live on an island in the Inland Sea. The film is made up of very long scenes with little editing, and the dialogue is sparse, with the characters not engaging in any conversation at all for the first 37 minutes.
For most of the film, we watch them go about their everyday chores. For example, they have to row to the mainland several times each day in order to collect water (shown in the image above).
Although there is not much dialogue, the film makes you empathise with the characters and what they are going through, as the highly realistic film style forces the spectator to share their experiences.
The filming of the surrounding scenery is also really beautiful.
The film reminded me of a Brazilian film called Vidas Secas (1963), which I studied at university last year, which charts a family of nomads and their journey through the desert in search of a place to live away from drought and hunger.
The films are very similar given the lack of dialogue, long scenes, lack of editing and focus on ordinary people and their everyday lives.
The Seto Inland Sea is of particular interest to me as this is where my mother comes from. I have visited this area several times and have always been awed by the beautiful scenery, which in some ways reminds me of Greece, due to the cliffs, citrus groves, cobalt blue sea dotted with little islands, white sandy beaches and green pines.
The place is often referred to as ‘The Aegean Sea of Japan’.
I also visited a port town here called Tomonoura, which inspired the seaside village in the Studio Ghibli film Ponyo (2008).
The scenery in Ponyo.
Here is a link to watch The Naked Island if you are interested.
If you want to know more about the Seto Inland Sea and its culture and history, there is a fabulous article on this, from which I first learnt about the film.