Harmonium – Film Review by Frank. L.
Director: Kôji Fukada
Writer: Kôji Fukada
Stars: Mariko Tsutsui, Tadanobu Asano, Kanji Furutachi
The film begins with a young girl Hotaru (Momone Shinokawa) practising, ploddingly, on a harmonium as the metronome ticks out its strict rhythm. She finishes her practice as she is called to eat her supper with her two parents. She has forgotten to stop the metronome. She returns and does so and then continues to her family meal. The family consists of Mum Akie (Mariko Tsutsui) and Dad Toshio (Kanji Furutachi). Surprisingly grace is said by Akie with Hotaru participating but Toshio remaining silent. There appears to be little fizz in the marriage. Toshio is preoccupied by his thriving sheet metal business which he carries on beside the house. Into this dull routine an apparent stranger arrives, Yasaka (Tadanobu Asano), who has just been released from prison after 16 years. He is not a complete stranger to Toshio. Yasaka comes to live in the house and ingratiates himself into the household. His presence magnifies the under surface tensions.
Up until this point the film has moved to show the family functioning in a mundane way. It then takes a deeply disturbing turn which shatters that calm. The rest of the film has a series of grim happenings which compound the tragedy which has befallen the family, in particular Akie and Hotaru. Toshio, always remote, continues his taciturn existence but his past encircles him and the family gravitates to a place which is anything but harmonious. The regularity of the beat of the metronome which accompanied Hotaru at the beginning of the film is long gone by the end. The words “tense” and “gripping” become increasingly relevant as the suspense unfolds. Fukada has a talent to reveal the series of events in a calm and deliberate way. It is beautifully acted, elegantly filmed and disturbing to watch. It is worth seeing but forget about any prospect of humour.