90s Far East Bracket: Eno Nakano Bokuno Mura (Village Of Dreams, 1996)

The second film in my seventh, and final, match-up in the second round of the 90s Far East Bracket takes me down a well traveled path!

Story By: Yôichi Higashi, Takehiro Nakajima & Seizo Tashima
Directed By: Yôichi Higashi

I didn’t know what to expect from Eno Nakano Bokuno Mura, and the prologue threw me for even more of a loop. I went from not knowing what to expect to expecting something modern to being tossed into a childhood nostalgia story. That is where my feelings on the film reside, and I know this will be a point of contention among many fans of the film. I don’t have much negative to say about Eno Nakano Bokuno Mura, but my main problem is a pretty big one, it fits like an old shoe.

Maybe the old shoe analogy is a bad one or doesn’t make sense, in that case let me clear up what I meant. What Eno Nakano Bokuno Mura brings to the table in its childhood nostalgia is a perfectly fine story, but it’s a story I have seen many times before. I couldn’t shake that feeling as I watched Eno Nakano Bokuno Mura, I felt comfortable watching the film but I had felt that same comfort before in other films about childhood development. There were a few instances where I could sense the director, Yôichi Higashi, going for more than comfort. Neither had the impact he intended, but one was interesting and the other felt out of place.

The first break from the comfortable story that came to me was the character of Senji. He came across to me as a clear representation of old Japan, the sense of all the land belonging to him was what first led me to my interpretation. Said interpretation was cemented in my brain by the actions of the principal towards Senji. He bullies Senji around, his lectures towards Senji about school send a message that old Japan’s ways can not compete with modern Japanese intelligence. At the same time the principal blames Senji for all the little problems he, as well as the village, incur. The scene in particular where he beats Senji for making him slip on the floor shows an unhealthy rage towards old Japan. Higashi-san isn’t saying the principal is in the right, he isn’t blaming old Japan. The message he presents is an interesting one and it takes Japan’s desire to move forward and leave their past behind and shines an inquisitive light on it.

The second way in which Eno Nakano Bokuno Mura tries to move away from a zone of comfort is with its supernatural elements. Those felt out of place, specifically the three supernatural grandmother’s belonged in another movie. I searched my mind for some sort of connection to be gleaned from their presence, but none came to me. Maybe there’s something with the supernatural elements that I’m missing, but within the narrative that I experienced those elements did not belong.

I know that others, especially one person whose opinion I respect, think very highly of Eno Nakano Bokuno Mura. I’ve read some of the reviews from others where the twins represent a greater lesson about Japan, and so on. I respect those interpretations, but I didn’t see any of that when I watched Eno Nakano Bokuno Mura. In the end I found Eno Nakano Bokuno Mura to be a simple journey through childhood. The stuff with Senji added a small bit of depth to the film, but not enough for me to think of it as any more than a simple journey. The two child actors were really good, I enjoyed the time I spent with them. However, the film didn’t connect with me on a level beyond simple enjoyment, that’s not a bad thing, but that enjoyment came from a well traveled place. Eno Nakano Bokuno Mura is well worn instead of unique, and that makes a fine film, but not one I consider special.

Rating:

***

Cheers,
Bill

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