Next film during the IFI’s Japanese Story is the critically acclaimed Hana-bi. Starring Takeshi Kitano, who also directed and edited this film. The film follows Nishi (Kitano) an ex-detective who is trying to take care of his dying wife. He borrows money from the yakuza to try and pay for the various hospital bills.
Eventually, the yakuza come calling and when they arrive they are met by an incredibly violent force. Nishi is a man holding terrifying rage. From losing his job due to a horrible shootout to losing his young daughter and watching his wife slowly dying, there is nothing seemingly left for Nishi. Meanwhile, his partner Horibe who was left paralyzed due to the shootout has been left alone by family and is spiralling into depression.
Deciding that enough is enough Nishi decides to rob a bank. It goes off without a hitch and he repays his debt, sends money to the widow of one of the other victims of the shootout. Nishi also sends his partner Horibe art supplies hoping that this will get Horibe out of this funk. Finally, he takes the remainder of the money and travels across country with Miyuki his wife.
Hana-bi, it means fireworks
Hana-bi is a brilliant film. Takeshi Kitano crafted a sombre and surprisingly brutal portrayal of a man on his final legs. Throughout the course of the film, the audience is told of what has happened to Nishi and yet we see nothing from the man.
He is a stone wall, nothing seems to phase him. It seems that after the shootout so much was taken from like a kind of punishment and he has just gotten used to it. He barely speaks to his wife, when a gun is held to his head he doesn’t flinch, and when he suffers any kind of pain he doesn’t seem to register it. He is a solemn figure and when the brief moments of violence come out they are unnerving because there is a sense of detachment from the world when these explosions occur.
Nishi isn’t devoid of emotion though. He sends gifts to each of those he believes he believes he has wronged trying to make amends. It’s clear he cares for those around but seems incapable of showing it. Only able to act out violently.
Bringing down the hammer
It’s a depressing film as the story progresses and the police seem to be on his trail I began to wonder how it would end, and much like the violence, I was surprised by the choices Kitano made. It’s beautiful, tragic and though it feels in the moment like it comes out of nowhere actually suits the tone of Hana-bi.
Hana-bi is a beautiful film. I adored watching this story of one man’s journey for redemption. And Kitano has impressed with his technical skills as well with his editing and directing choices.