[From December Issue 2011]
The Castle of Sand (Directed by NOMURA Yoshitaro)
This film is an adaptation of the original novel of the same name written by mystery writer MATSUMOTO Seicho. The novel has been translated into English, French, Italian, Chinese and Korean. Released in 1974, this film won various awards including the Mainichi Award for Best Film and the Golden Arrow Award. Its humanist story, which uncovers the fate of a father and son who had been separated for about 30 years, received rave reviews. This story has also been dramatized on TV over and over again, each time set in different periods.
The story opens with a murder that occurs in a Tokyo train yard in the wee hours of June 24, 1971. The investigation falters because there are no clues as to the victim’s identity. However, once a man searching for his missing father comes forward, they are able to identify the victim as 65-year-old MIKI Kenichi. Gradually the truth is unraveled, as Detective IMANISHI and his team investigate.
Miki, the murder victim, had been a police officer in a village in Shimane Prefecture. Dearly loved by the local villagers, he was even compassionate when delivering sermons to criminals. One day, a roaming father and son arrive in the village. The father, Chiyokichi is suffering from leprosy, a condition which was thought to be incurable in those days, fleeing from society’s prejudice, he has constantly been on the road with his son, Hideo.
Miki admits Chiyokichi to a hospital and takes in the unwanted Hideo. But, because of his sadness caused by the absense of his father, Hideo soon runs away. He ends up in Osaka, and finds work as a live-in employee with the Wagas, a couple who own a bicycle shop. After the couple passes away, Hideo changes his name to WAGA Eiryo, and grows into manhood. Soon, Waga starts his life as a talented young musician.
Just around that time, Miki finds out that Waga is actually Hideo. Miki who has continued to communicate by letter with the hospitalized Chiyokichi, is aware that Chiyokichi had been praying for his son’s happiness. Miki visits Hideo, who is now known as Waga Eiryo, numerous times and tries to persuade him to visit his father in the hospital. But the prejudice against leprosy at that time was still strong and Hideo, who has become a famous musician, is afraid that a meeting would adversely affect his public image.
Some months later, Waga is performing his new song “Shukumei” (fate) at a concert hall. Waga has managed to overcome his isolation and achieved success, but he has never been able to discard his complex feelings toward his father, and he is frantic in front of his keyboard. For awhile images of Waga and his father suffering from discrimination as they continue their journey are shown on the screen. It’s as if the beautiful Japanese scenery and melody flow alongside the fate of this man.
The story includes a vital key – the word “Kameda” -which connects criminal and victim. Detective Imanishi and his team try to figure out whether the word refers to a person or a place. This film is not just an attention-grabbing human drama, but is also an intricate mystery-suspense movie.