Blessed with several large rivers, interconnected streams and springs, Japan’s ancient capital, Kyoto, anoints the land with a bountiful source of water. In this tranquil setting, three women join the flow of a small community with the subtle presence of a spring breeze. Setsuko , the proprietor of a whiskey-only bar; Takako, the owner of a coffee shop along the waterway; Hatsumi, a maker of tofu so delicious it seems to spring forth from the clear water. Under their subtle influence, other townspeople gradually begin their own streams too: Yamanoha, a local worker for a furniture workshop; Otome, the owner of a neighborhood public bath; Jin, a young man who assists him at the bath; Makoto, a wayfarer about the town. Among their daily lives, there is Poplar, a small child with a perpetually friendly smile.
A story without story-telling, focused on the everyday lives of people striving to see themselves clearly;
A story that may be unfolding alongside the everyday world of real people.
A story that directly speaks to all people, with its authentic characters.
Where are we, now? Who are we with? Why do we stay? Where will we go?
What is essential now?
Such thoughts and feelings flow from the rivers in Kyoto…
Earlier films from the same production team, Kamome Diner, Megane, and POOL, each moved to illuminate simple relationships with people and places. In this fourth collaboration, Mother Water, a new place is visited: Kyoto, an evolving town that retains its ancient sense of immutable beauty. From Helsinki, to Yoron Island to Chiang Mai, the generous potential of such relationships with people and places were explored and experienced. With this same approach, the team searched for a place to embody the origins of our feelings; Kyoto became the inevitable choice.
A Sense of Kyoto
Mother Water details Kyoto: narrow streets, fringed with small shops; the enviable ambles of cats and dogs; cheerful birds, flitting with playful ease across the water. The movie invites all to enjoy a quiet stroll or the simple pleasures of living in this place. People and their surroundings become the focus, without relying on typical sightseeing spots in this famous city. Just as Kamome Diner and Megane avoided stereotyped images, so Mother Water details an authentic Kyoto, without showing any cultural icons. In Japan, Kyoto carries a reputation of an insular community, yet this town is an evolving town whose separate elements must continually and aggressively transform in order to uphold its rich traditions. Observing the daily lives of the people in Kyoto revealed this dualistic unfolding, and a portrayal of Kyoto thus became a portrayal of humanity itself.
Flow of Water
Mother Water celebrates the continued existence of small, independently run shops in Kyoto. From Setsuko’s bar, Takako’s coffee shop, Hatsumi’s tofu shop and Otome’s public bath to a vegetable stand where Makoto frequents on foot as well as the furniture craft center where Yamanoha works, actual shops, currently in business, were used for the film. Each shop conjured its own atmosphere, wafted from the actual people living and working there. Reacting to these emanations, actors responded, and a new scent emerged. Mother Water’s breeze thus began to blow: Makoto’s living room, where she enjoyed her solitary meals; Takako’s deck, where the joy of blue sky brightened her view and colored the street and its pedestrians. Between shots, actors enjoyed long walks, absorbing the pace of the water, flowing along with the people of the town.
The film also revels in the essential pleasure of a beautiful meal. A gracious breakfast to match Makoto’s style; dinner that she enjoys with a small bottle of beer– tempura of seasonal vegetables surrounded by enticing, small dishes; juicy beef cutlet sandwiches Setsuko and Yamanoha relish together; egg sandwiches Makoto and Hatsumi share with Poplar at a bench in a nearby park; a filling lunch of oyakodon, a bowl of rice topped with chicken and eggs, enjoyed by Otome and Jin at the public bath; steaming gratin, meticulously prepared by Takako. Appealing meals occur throughout the film, presented by Nami Iijima, a skillful food stylist and collaborator since Kamome Diner.
Chairs or other places of rest appear throughout the film as a metaphor for life. Benches placed in welcome, led by Makoto’s request, grace the front of Hatsumi’s tofu shop; long-legged stools surround Setsuko’s bar; comfortable old chairs face the street, at Takako’s coffee shop; an enigmatic chair rests at the riverside that lulls casual sitters to a peaceful sleep. The bench at the tofu shop grows from one to two, and offers a chance for hospitality, to share with a stranger. From the small world of one place in time, a new relationship can spread out over distance and space. Like a person selects shoes to take the first step of a journey, so we must select the chair to perfectly match our surroundings. Selecting a chair can become a way of finding a sense of oneself.
Humanity’s potential can be glimpsed in a child’s tottering steps. Sharing the actual first steps of the child portraying Poplar during production, the staff and crew ended the filming just as they imagined, experiencing together this hopeful milestone in existence. Adjusting to Poplar’s pace became natural, and refracted onto the frames and feelings of the film. In viewing the perspective of a child learning to walk, our own independent and individual paths through life became clear.
Born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1981. Graduated from Tama University, Faculty of Art and Design. Direction experience includes a variety of commercial endeavors, clay animation for the making of Megane (2007), and for the making of Pool (2009). Mother Water is her feature film directorial debut.
(From Japanese Film Festival Singapore)
No English subtitles at the moment