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This is a past article published in Hiragana Times. Each Japanese paragraph is followed by its English translation or vise versa, and furigana are placed above each kanji to make Japanese study even easier. [Magazine Sample] [Subscription Page]

A Human Drama About a Woman Who Overcomes the Death of Her Husband

[From November Issue 2010]

Maboroshi no Hikari [Phantasmic Light] (Directed by KORE-EDA Hirokazu)

[幻の光] 販売元:バンダイビジュアル
© TV MAN UNION,Inc.

This motion picture was adapted from the novel of the same title, written by MIYAMOTO Teru, about a wife who overcomes her husband’s devastating death. It is the first feature-length film for the director, KORE-EDA Hirokazu, and was released in 1995. It is also the film in which fashion magazine model, ESUMI Makiko, launched her acting career. The film has received various national and international awards, including the Golden Osella award at the Venice Film Festival.

The protagonist Yumiko (played by Esumi), grew up regretting her feelings of helplessness that started when she was 12 years old and her grandmother went missing. Yumiko eventually married Ikuo (played by ASANO Tadanobu) and gave birth to their son, Yuuichi, but remained traumatized by her childhood incident. One day, Ikuo unexpectedly commits suicide and Yumiko is left devastated, without the slightest clue as to why he did it.

Five years later, Yumiko gets remarried to Tamio (played by NAITO Takeshi), who was a widower and lives with his only daughter Tomoko and his elderly father (played by EMOTO Akira) in a small village on the Noto Peninsula along the coast of the Sea of Japan. Tolerating the harsh winter’s cold, this new family of five start their tranquil lives together as Yumiko gradually gets to know the locals. Then, six months later, she returns to her hometown to attend her younger brother’s wedding ceremony.

During her stay, Yumiko stops by the apartment that she once shared with Ikuo. As she strolls down memory lane, passing a familiar coffee shop and the factory where Ikuo worked, her feelings towards her lost husband begin to resurface as she dwells on the question of why he committed suicide. Yumiko eventually returns home unable to shrug off these depressing feelings.

Tamio sees how Yumiko feels. However, Yumiko leaves the house still emotionally confused. She wanders around, heading toward the seaside. Tamio comes to her side where Yumiko confesses that she “still does not know why Ikuo killed himself.” Tamio shares with her, “Fishermen are lured into the sea. They see a beautiful light on the horizon. Probably everyone has a moment like that.” When spring finally arrives, there is new laughter in Yumiko’s family, as the movie comes to an end.

The park at night, the rainy street, and the village in winter with low clouds all convey the darkness in Yumiko’s heart. There is not much dialogue, and there are hardly any close-ups of any of the characters. This is a quiet piece of work that illustrates the process a person goes through in reclaiming, over time, the desire to live, while also gradually overcoming the grief of losing someone close.


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