A Nobuteru Uchida Film Our Escape
Our Escape was inspired by an internet news story about a 14-year-old girl and 20-year-old man who were arrested for a honey trap. Although the methods have changed over time, it’s an age-old game of deceit. But what would happen if the (male) victim of the scheme joined forces with the girl who tricked him? Could this lead to love? While exploring such possibilities, this story began to take shape. We started shooting in 2015, the 70th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War. For this reason, I felt compelled to portray the barely audible, yet inevitable footsteps of an approaching war. As I was pondering over the meaning of war and its causes, such as the craving for more land, sea and airspace, I saw a parallelism between a nation that claims: “This island is our territory!” and a man who claims: “This woman belongs to me!” Love, war, possession…I began filming Our Escape as a war film disguised as a love story.
In Our Escape, two young people roam around the grey underbelly of a seemingly peaceful Japan, where they strive to find in each other’s solitude a glimmer of love. But love seems to have slipped out from their bodies, incompatible with their DNA, and as they try to get a bit closer, the ashy sands blowing across the shore where they found refuge relentlessly draw them further apart. Their stubborn isolation echoes that of a country vacillating in the wake of a nuclear disaster, where people keep longing for a flash of love in spite of its apparent impossibility.
Our Escape is the fifth feature film of director Nobuteru Uchida, marking his return to independent productions after the success of Love Addiction, winner of the Grand Prize at the TOKYO FILMeX in 2010. The film carries the unorthodox directing style of Uchida, who encourages actors to interpret the script through embodied performances. Along these lines, leading actor Ryubun Sumori (credited as Ryubun Saito in Shinya Tsukamoto’s Fires on the Plain) acts by stifling his words in favour of form and physical action.
Noboru is a young man struggling for survival in the outskirts of Tokyo, where he lives in a tent filled with calligraphic compositions as expressions of his sense of solitude and alienation. When he accidentally witnesses a fight between a girl and a man, Kifuyu and Shigehisa, intrigued by Kifuyu he decides to start following her. After discovering that she is submissively involved with Shigehisa in the illicit practice of the “badger game”, he persuades her to attempt to escape together by devising a fake kidnapping. As Shigehisa rebuffs his ransom demand, Kifuyu tries to kill him in a surge of anger, and finds refuge in Noboru’s arms. The two then embark on a journey towards the sea in the attempt to fill each other’s solitude.
Noboru: Ryubun Sumori was born in Shizuoka prefecture on 27th May 1988. He graduated at Meiji Gakuin University with a degree in Psychology. After watching I Just Did't Do It directed by Masayuki Suo as a high school student, he developed his interest in acting. He then began to engage with theatrical activities, and did his debut in cinema with Mountain Dog (2011) before graduating. With his peculiar looks, after acting in several films where he displayed his idiosyncratic looks and performance, he was selected to be the protagonist of the present film. He will also appear in the currently in-progress Amazing Place directed by Risaku Kiridoshi. He appeared also in The Voice of Water (2014) directed by Masashi Yamamoto (Berlin International Film Festival), Fires on the Plain (2014) directed by Shinya Tsukamoto (Venice International Film Festival), the short film No Song To Sing (2016) produced by Ewen Bremner and directed by Lukasz Gasiorowski (Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner) and in film by directors such as Takahisa Zeze and Kazuyoshi Kumakiri.
Kikuyu: Ai Samurai was born in Tokyo on 19th June 1991. She graduated in literature with a major in theatre at Meiji University. She was motivated to become an actress after participating as a volunteer in the film I Give My First Love to You, starring Mao Inoue, of whom she was a big fan during high school. After debuting with an original Shakespeare’s play hosted by the university, she performed both in school and commercial productions; the venues ranging from small bars to more than 1000 seats-sized halls. Before the present film, she also starred?? in Tag directed by Shion Sono.
Director, Screenplay, Film editor, Art director, Sound recording, Sound editor, Production manager, Producer:
Nobuteru Uchida was born in Saitama Prefecture on 20th November 1972. He studied oil painting as an aspiring artist, but he was drawn into movies in high school, where he traded in his paintbrush for a camera. He debuted in the big screen with Love Addiction (2011), winning the Grand Prix at the 11th edition of the Tokyo Filmex. Since then, he continued expressing his worldview on film, exposing in a multi-layered fashion the social and political phenomena lying behind the contemporary Japanese youth he portrays.
FILMOGRAPHY as director: Pictorial Letters ’03 / documentary / 2003 PFF Award, Special Jury Prize, Hong Kong International Film Festival, Special Mention Kazaana ’07 / feature / 8th TAMA NEW WAVE Grand Prize and Best Actress, 2008 Hiroshima Visual Exhibition (Indie film competition), Grand Prize, Best Screenplay and Best Director, 2008 PFF Award, Special Jury Prize, Vancouver Int’l Film Festival, in competition etc. Love Addiction ’10 / feature / theatrical-released in 2011 distributed by Makotoya / TOKYO FILMeX, Gand Prize, Rotterdam Int’l FF in competition, Hong Kong Int’l FF, Taipei FF, San Sebastian Int’l FF in New Japanese Independent Cinema 2000 – 2015 etc. Odayaka ’12 also concept, screenplay and editing / feature / theatrical-released in 2012 and in Taiwan in 2013 distributed by Wa / 2014 Canary Islands Int’l Environmental FF, Best Film, Busan Int’l FF, TOKYO FILMeX, Rotterdam Int’l FF, Thessaloniki Int’l FF etc. Love Bombs ’13 feature / theatrical-released in 2013 distributed by Makotoya.
Music: Yami Kurae is an Italian psych folk band, founded by Jacopo Bortolussi and Matteo Polato in 2010. They have been playing together since their teenage years, and they officially debuted in 2011 with the album La sposa dello stagno, released by the American label Crucial Blast. Their music is characterized by low-fi textures obtained through the use old tape recorders, handmade instruments and other analog paraphernalia. Jacopo Bortolussi is currently conducting academic research on Japanese music based in London while Matteo Polato works in Italy as an electronic music composer. However, they keep working together in several music projects.
Co-producer, Distributor: Keiko Kusakabe is film distributor and producer. She started her career in 1986 as a freelance publicist. In 2005, she became president of Makotoya Co., Ltd. being involved in all aspects of the film industry from acquisition, theatrical distribution, promotion, production, financing and foreign sales. She has distributed in Japan several films such as Nanni Moretti’s Ecce Bombo (1978) and Palombella Rossa (1989), Shinya Tsukamoto’s Bullet Ballet (1998) and Yoshihiko Matsui’s The Noisy Requiem (1988), and she is also credited as producer in films such as Tsukamoto’s A Snake of June (2003), Vital (2004) and Kotoko (2011), Isayasu Sato’s Love and loathing and Lulu and Ayano (2010) and Kazuyoshi Kumakiri’s Non-ko, (2009). She has also contributed to the introduction of Japanese movies to international audiences: she was one of the jury members in the ‘Orizzonti’ section of the 63rd Venice International Film Festival and a member of the commission of Ca’ Foscari Short Film Festival in 2013. Apart from her career in the film industry, she has recently collaborated with Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, delivering masterclasses about film distribution for the Master of Fine arts in Filmmaking.
After his first indipendent feature film, Love Addiction, Nobuteru Uchida relied on a production company for the shooting of his next two works: Odayaka and Love Bombs. However, urging to thoroughly handle each aspect of the films' creation process, he turned back to his former steps as independent filmmaker for his last film, Our Escape.
In November 2014, Uchida decided to center the concept of his next film on the notion of love. By the beginning of the next year, after reading on a newspaper an article about a ‘love scheme’ fraud perpetrated by a young woman and a man, he begun to write a plot based on the love between two persons involved in such practice.
For the role of Noboru, the main male character who lives as a homeless, it was necessary an actor with a fast-growing beard. In addition, it was necessary someone capable to adjust his performance to the given directions, while also being able to contribute in his own original way to the shaping of the character. Ryubun Sumori was finally selected for this role. In order to faithfully impersonate Noboru, Sumori decided to stop washing his hair for all the duration of the shooting - approximately one year - and he did not take a shower for several months. As for the main female character, the director was keen on selecting someone able to convey emotions with the eyes, a feature he believes to be often lacking among Japanese actress. After selecting Ai Sakurai for this role, he helped her tailoring her performance to the role by looking and discussing together the footage of her audience.
On the 30th of May, 2015, the film shooting begun. The photographic equipment consisted in a EOS 5D MarkIII and five lenses, and it was decided to use natural light. Firstly, the director decided to shoot some unscripted scenes, filming the two characters roaming about the city. In parallel with these tests, the staff worked on the development of the screenplay, finalized with the 10th version. Staff and cast then gathered every Sunday for the shooting of the scripted scenes, while working on their ordinary jobs during the rest of the week.
The shooting of the summer scenes along the Arakawa river were aggrieved by the presence of a dreadful amount of mosquitos. The anti-war demo portrayed in one of the scenes was an actual demonstration by the Japanese student activist organization SEALDS, which the crew happened to stumble upon during one day of shooting in the city center. The director worked on the revision of the screenplay while waiting that Ryubun Sakamori's beard grew longer. In order to appear more realistic, Sakurai Ai did not use any makeup or basic skin-care product in all the scenes shot during winter. The director of photography Saito Aya, while performing several other tasks, also took care of the preparation of the food; the hot stew that she made for the shooting of the winter scenes was particularly praised by cast and crew unanimously.
On the 7th on July, 2016, director Uchida and cinematographer Saito met with the film's distributor Kusakabe Keiko, discussing the arrangement for the film's post-production. After deciding to use the music from the Italian band Yami Kurae, that Kusakabe introduced to Uchida on that occasion, they began the process of post-production. Saito worked on the color grading, lowering the film colors to a darker pitch. Meanwhile, Uchida worked on the sound editing, fixing the volume ratio between dialogues and environmental sounds. The post-production was completed by October.
The film was officially screen at the 17th Tokyo Film Ex Competition, on the 20th of November, 2016. While watching the film on the big screen, Uchida was unsatisfied with the quality of the sound, deciding to re-edit it for the final version. Our Escape's theatrical release will be held at the Euro Space cinema of Shibuya from the 24th of June.
text by Jacopo Bortolussi
Nobu film Production presents A Nobuteru Uchida film
Ryubun Sumori, Ai Sakurai, Daisuke Matsunaga, Nobuhito Irie, Seiichi Shido, Takashi Matsumoto, Hikari Suzuki, Kaori Shiina, Yuta Moriya, Kosuke Takaki
Directed | Screenplay | Film editing | Sound recording | Sound editing by Nobuteru Uchida
Cinematography | Art direction | Hair and make-up | Costume | Color grading | Still Photography by Aya Saito
Sound recording by Hiroyuki Shintani Music by Yamikurae [Jacopo Bortolussi, Matteo Polato] Production Managers: Aya Saito, Nobuteru Uchida
Co-producer: Keiko Kusakabe Producers: Aya Saito, Nobuteru Uchida
Distributed by Makotoya
Thanks for their help about pubblicity:
Master of Fine arts in filmmaking: Università Ca' Foscari Venezia／Ca' Foscari Short Film Festival／Marco Trianni／Arianna Correggi／Corinna Rombi／Robin Andriolo／Giulia Castagnetti／Virginia Ambrosio／Tommaso Giacomin／Ilaria Borsato／Francesco Carra／Maicol Gardelli／Angelo Girardello／Luis Damian Lopez Laing Hernandez／Silvia Stefanini／Luca Pilli／Roberta Novielli
2016 / JAPAN / 16:9 / COLOR / 2.0ch / DCP / 115min / eng.sub / ©Nobu film Production / ©for MATERIALS: 2017 Makotoya Co.,Ltd.