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“Drive My Car” a meditation on pain and art

“Drive My Car”, the acclaimed Japanese feature film that is nominated for Oscar in the categories of Best International Film, Best Direction, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film, it is a cinematographic meditation on pain and art. The film is subtle and manages to wrap the viewer in a tangible melancholy. With an emotionally charged plot and three hours long, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s impeccable direction makes the melodrama something that is completely absent from the screen.

Free from the commercial conventions of Hollywood, this is the kind of film that gives itself permission to explore an emotion fully or an intellectual approach calmly. Also, the absence of pretensions is key to its effectiveness. Otherwise, the slow pace of the plot would be unbearable. By not having a bombastic emotional catharsis, the script is given the task of tying the public to the protagonist for a prolonged period. This makes what would be a character background monologue in a conventional drama become the first forty minutes of the film.

In this prologue we meet Yosuke Kafuku, a noted theater director and actor, and his wife Oto, who writes screenplays for film and television. The viewer gets a chance to witness the dysfunction of her marriage before she unexpectedly dies of a stroke. The rest of the film takes place two years later, with the protagonist dealing with the scars of that tragedy while putting together an avant-garde production of Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya.”

The plot alternates between the play’s extended rehearsals, where the Russian playwright’s material serves as a Greek chorus for the protagonist’s insecurities and emotional trauma, and how the friendship between Kafuku and his assigned chauffeur develops as he produces. the work in Hiroshima.

While the sections that use the text of “Uncle Vanya” clearly want to highlight the possibility of healing wounds through art, the motor of the film lies in the moments of the plot where the protagonist is challenged to come out of his emotional lethargy. That, either by directly facing the imperfections of his marriage or in the gradual way in which he develops a friendship with the young woman who has the responsibility of driving his car.

The power of the film and its greatest triumph lies in the forceful simplicity of the direction’s audiovisual proposal. Everything goes in service of creating a cinematic mirror so that the emotions of the protagonist are appropriate for the public. With this, Hamaguchi manages to make the most shocking moments of his film the unexpected intimacy that arises between his central characters. Being able to capture this gives a hypnotic quality to the film that at the same time imparts a deeper reach to its emotional impact.

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