Media usually portrays war as just the battlefield where the action takes place. War movies are usually about the “good soldiers” who kill all the “bad ones”. Be it Nazis or terrorists, the stories usually take a plain stand on its message and just wants to show us an action scene of “good vs evil”. And not only in the mainstream ones, even in anime, where we usually don’t see real historical conflicts, we are more accustomed to magical wars where the hero wins with the power of friendship…
But sometimes some works take a stand and show us more sides of this, and one very important that doesn’t have much representation as it should, are civilians lives.
“This war of mine”, “Grave of the Fireflies” or “Barefoot Gen” presents us with different visions of this, where we see what people need to suffer through this conflicts, and this time we have another production of the same kind, but with different style and elements that needed its representation.
“In this corner of the world” shows us a unique way of storytelling that is both heartbreaking and exceptionally realistic, it will transports us to 1940’s Hiroshima, and pierces deeply in your heart and skull, to make you think, and feel.
Note: Mild spoilers towards the end of the article (3rd part), I highly recommend you to watch the movie (now in theaters) and come again to read this 🙂
Women and daily life
One of the most interesting aspects of this movie is its point of view, which is through the protagonist eyes, Suzu.
This movie isn’t about war, it’s about the people that lived in this period of struggle, apolitical people unaware of what was happening around them, but that would be affected by the consequences of it.
Suzu is a Japanese woman in the 1940’s, she must follow traditions, because, for her, that’s what it’s normal. Suzu marries and becomes housewife of a man that she didn’t know, just because she is proposed. And then she goes to live with him and his family and devotes herself to make the best possible of their lives, working as hard as she can in all of the house chores.
It’s a perfect depiction of a what a women’s life was, and this is something that we are not used to seeing. And I love it.
The movie, if it wasn’t as well made as it is, could be boring under this premise to the taste of a lot of people, it could fall into something dull, but it doesn’t, it does a great job, presenting us daily life scenes always in an interesting way that keeps us invested in the action happening on screen, at the same time it makes you reflect on the kind of life that this person lived.
Also, the film is set in a household, which not only focuses with Suzu, but also with the other women that inhabit it. Presenting us with a diverse cast that represents the female demographic.
Rythm, details, and style
Matching its story, the movie also has a distinct style to present us the visual aspect, that encapsulates everything in the best way possible.
The pace of the events is slow and quiet, just like what they are, everyday actions. It fits perfectly. The clumsiness and steadiness of Suzu are well played here, as the rhythm is one without a hurry, but always advancing with constant steps.
This relaxed flow is accompanied by ghost-like details, as the movie shows us different small elements that will be tangled to the main events, connecting everything and giving more density to the world and characters, but without being blatantly apparent, playing constantly with our focus of attention.
Everything is represented in the best way by its animation.
For the most part, the movie seems like watercolors in movement, beautifully painted backgrounds with even prettier character designs that almost seems that came out of a canvas, both rich in color and textures, and sometimes with some nice stylistic brush strokes that give a warm and lovely feeling to the drawings.
The movement is also adequate to the narrative, as most of the time, it emulates very well realistic people just doing normal stuff in an old way, with a passive sensation that engulfs everything but doesn’t slow down anything.
It’s remarkable how also is combined experimental animation to the thought and special actions, it’s a symphony of colors and movement for the eyes that makes a great job describing in an abstract form the feeling and thought of our protagonist.
One of the cruelest and defining characteristics of war, is loss. Tons of people subjected to lose something by being entangled in what they didn’t choose to participate, but that affected them.
Many war media has represented this in a lot of ways, be it soldiers falling to their end, or important character meeting with a premature death, houses, families, or just random destruction. But I think that the approach of this movie on the topic is an exceptionally good one.
The movie starts twelve years before the war climax (Hiroshima, 1945), that is 1933. Suzu is just a child, but she works and helps her family just as any adult. We are shown little by little and in a natural course the different aspects of japan’s life before the war. But, as we advance in time, the war effects are visible. First, it’s just some background details, a few ships on the horizon and some news, then provisions are more and more limited, to the point that Suzu struggle his imagination to make the small quantity last to an entire family.
In the end, conflict arrives, and we see how the battlefield shows in towns and cities. Planes and bombs aimed at innocent people. Anti-air attacks shelters and alerts are nor a daily thing, and we see how brothers, neighbors, and family is lost. And how it affects the people who cared about them.
But life goes on. And everyone keeps everything, but can’t do anything.
I also really liked a lot how the Hiroshima bomb was depicted. Not a flashy scene. No a point of focus, not something fancy or extravagant. Just light, the wind, and smoke. The usual in the war. People wonder what happened but they really don’t know. People just saw some explosion bigger than normal, in a world where that is daily, and start talking and wondering things, all in the chaos of the war, and in an era without easy communications.
The image of the post-bomb victims is also tough if you know anything about them. “You’ll recover and be okay” are words too cruel and sad in retrospective.
But the most powerful and heartbreaking thing to me, without making less hard the others. the thing that smashed the inside of chest in more pieces, was the loss of the hand.
Suzu drawing is one of the key elements of the movie. She is always working with his hands, and are a useful tool, like for everyone else, but drawing breaths life in this girl, since she is little. It’s something that pumps her heart and molds her smile. If she were to be a boy, she would have become an awarded artist. She can’t be herself without drawing, she can’t enjoy life, she would make anything to do it, and we see clearly this through all the movie, as she develops maintaining that always a constant deep feeling.
We have seen people die in war movies in lots of forms, but this, this is something else. She loses something that was taken for granted but at the same time was vital for her. This senses like the true feeling of loss, it resonates with me personally and makes me think and touches me heavier than an explosion to my soul.
This movie is more beautiful than an art museum and more heartbreaking than a myocardium attack, it’s a pacifist work of art that will make you think and feel, so go watch it, and bring tissues with you.