No doubt there are others I haven't heard of, but for me Dare moshiranai forms the latest entry in a trilogy of Japanese films based ontrue incidents involving abusive parents: Oshima's 1969 Shonen (Boy),Nomura's 1978 Kichiku (The Demon) are the others. Shonen I saw long agoand isn't available. Kichiku I watched barely two weeks ago. Nomura'scamera tends to accuse, while Oshima's, if I recall, just watches,miming cinema vérité. Kore-eda, like Oshima, tends -- I mean thisliterally not pejoratively -- to voyeurism.
Knowing the story too well already from difficult-to-dodge earlyreviews and distributor publicity, I couldn't help seeing as ironic theearly scenes in which the children's mother Keiko is still a factor.Her voice an almost cute nasal whisper, something like that of a childboisterously ignoring a cold (compare the whisper-singing actress inSwallowtail Butterfly and Picnic or I don't know which Karie Kahimi cut(but my favorites are all on Larmes de Crocodile)), she comes across asa really great mother. The family may be on the outs, sneaking, two orthree gone fetal inside suitcases, into a one-child apartment, but it'sa family of five, not four victims and a demon. The "unpacking" of thechildren looks clever, magical. It's fairytale stuff. So is thechatter, the family life, those first nights especially, in the newapartment. Keiko's one of them and their mother in charge of them, allat once. They may complain but they clearly admire something in her,and obey her to the letter. They've learned from her a self-reliancethat so astounds throughout the film, that its slow breakdown is thatmuch more shattering. Not just their compliance, but the skill withwhich they do without her during her increasingly long absences testifyto what she's done for and with them. How many children you know couldsurvive this well for this long in these circumstances?
Or is what I'm seeing just the actress You's skill with thenonprofessional child actors? I think probably it's both, You andKeiko, and that Kore-eda knew and used this.
There's going to be too much written here about this film (and on theIMDb message board look for some really knowledgeable comments by YukoKthat make my top of the head rambling near worthless by comparison). Itry never to repeat or preempt others' contributions, but wondered howmany would register Keiko's mother-skills.
Kore-eda doesn't shy from deconstructing the closest thing he has hereto a protagonist, eldest son Akira. After Keiko's whisper-voice goesslowly sinister and collapses finally into written notes, we watch hiswill and integrity falter even as he attracts the sympathy of the shopgirl and cast-out Saki. I don't think there's a deliberatelysentimental shot in the entire film. The achingly symbolic garden thatmimics Akira's decline and the nighttime trek to the burial site maycome closest, but both are forgivable and may have been unavoidable. Ifyou haven't already seen Nobody Knows, prepare yourself for a fineten-minute cry.
See my comment at Distance (2001) for a snippet of Kore-eda apologeticin person.