"Drive My Car ", by director Ryusuke Hamaguchi , is the rare film based on the author 's work to excel. Writer and director explain the difficulties.
Haruki Murakami's beloved books have been the basis of several big screen adaptations over the years, with varying results. But the most recent was unanimous: " Drive My Car ", from a short story by the writer. This is the rare successful adaptation that stands out firmly as a sophisticated film, and it puts a new twist on it.vel spotlight on its director, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, as a major talent.
The source for "Drive My Car" is no more than 40 pages long. This is about a stage actor named Yusuke Kafuku, who gets a personal driver and makes an unexpected friend, an actor who was one of his late wife's lovers. From Harukami's ambiguous tale reflections of regret and performance, Hamaguchi offers something bigger but no less intimate: a multi-layered and unpredictable three-hour drama that tends to invigorate viewers.
The 42-year-old director has been making films since the 2000s, but he's the first to say how improbable this one can seem.
"Basically, I don't think Murakami's works are made for adaptation," the director said thoughtfully in J's officesanus Films, one of the distributors of "Drive My Car ". He was spea king in September before its premiere at the New York Film Festival. "Murakami's writing is wonderful for expressing inner emotions, and I think that is why people want to adapt them. But it's really hard to recreate those inner feelings in a movie. "
Once upon a time, Murakami didn 't even allow adaptations:" This is sufficient for a book to be a book , "he told Hfrance.fr in 1990. But with" Drive My Car "notable examples include " Burning ", an acclaimed adaptation by Korean author Lee Chang - dong who co-starred with Steven Yeun, as well as " Tony Takitani " and "Norwegian Wood ". Carlos Cuaron, the co-writer of "Y Tu Mama Tambien", even directed a short film of " The second attack on the bakery ", featuring Kirsten Dunst.
Murakami was surprised when ' he heard that the adaptation of Hamaguchi (who had his permission) lasted three hours. So he bought a ticket to see "Drive My Car" at a local theater.
"I was drawn from start to finish," said said the writer in an e-mail. "I think that alone is a wonderful achievement.
The simmering rendition of Hamaguchi - the Japanese candidate for the Oscar for best international feature film - seems to crack the code in adapting Murakami. For starters, the director chose a relatively simple story. "Drive My Car " lacks the surreal touches readers might experience in the novelist's "A Wild Sheep Chase " and "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle ", for example.
"He is able to move back and forth between things that are realistic and things that are not real in a book " said Hamaguchi of other works of the author. “But when you put that in the movie, it's easy for it to get a little silly and hard to make the audience believe. 'Drive My Car ' was a story where it stayed in the realm of realism.
Murakami 's original followed Yusuke ' s conversations with his driver, Misaki (played on screen by Toko Miura), a older woman. young which gradually warms up. This nMisaki doesn't mind when Yusuke lines up with the help of the car's cassette player. He tells her how he ghosted his new actor friend to get revenge for his wife's infidelity. His wife, in turn, remains only a memory in the story.
Hamaguchi's version mixes up and expands the timeline of the story. Yusuke's wife, Oto (Reika Kirishima), is still alive, and we start by observing her and Yusuke (Hidetoshi Nishijima). She 'sa popular writer for television, and the couple have a ritual: she tells him stories when they have sex, and later they elaborate on the storylines together.
This is alluring vanity and actually comes from another Hamaguchi story, " Scheherazade” (which, like“ Drive My Car ”, is part of the“ Men Without Women ”collection). Hamaguchi's opening scene is a quiet moment between Yusuke and Oto at home, with Oto first mysteriously in a twilight figure.
La scene is a romantic contrast to the opening of Murakami: Yusuke monologue on different types of female drivers. Hamaguchi attributes the idea to his co-writer, Takamasa Oe.
"I wanted to emphasize Oto 's central role in the narrative," wrote Oe in an email. "His voice and ghostly presence were always going to be the key to the story.
The film remains faithful to Oto 's death, but Hamaguchi then constructs a mention of "Uncle Vanya " in the original in a central story. Yusuke is invited to stage the play for a theater festival in Hiroshima. Its international cast includes a young hotshot (et hothead) named Koshi (Masaki Okada), who had an affair with Yusuke's wife (as the actor in the short story).
The actors of the play Yusuke speak their lines in different languages - an idea that comes in part from Hamaguchi's experiences taking an English course in the United States with other foreign visitors. In the film, Hamaguchi is particularly interested inx changing energies of repetitions.
"I think in repetition there are more mistakes. You can feel what is happening more keenly. And that's actually the creative process, ”Hamaguchi said. "I think it 's maybe more interesting than the improved or final version.
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Hamag uchi gives Yusuke one of his own habits as a filmmaker: very extensive tabletop readings of the before the shoot. Yusuke's intensive preparations add another dimension to Hamaguchi's interaction of emotions. In “Uncle Vanya”, Sonya's line “What can we do? We have to live our lives "takes on a deep resonance as Yusuke bond with Misaki who becomes the film 's emotional anchor.
Put on a production of Chekhov may seem like a big departure from Harukami 's autonomous story, but all is fair for the author.
"When my work is adapted , my wish is for the plot and dialogue to be changed freely, "Murakami wrote in the email. " There is a big difference between how a piece of literature develops and how a film is developing. "
For this reason, the author also favors "Burning", which deviates generously from his 1983 short story "Barn Burning" and shifts the action.
"By changing the setting from Japan to South Korea, I felt like a mysterious new reality was born. I would like to warmly commend those kinds of “gaps” or differences, ”added Murakami. (With one exception in 'Drive My Car': "I had imagined an old Saab convertible so when I saw the Saab with a roof appear in the movie, I felt a bit embarrassed at first. But I got used to it very quickly. ")
In a way, Hamaguchi's scenic vanity remains true to the sense of the realities nested in Murakami's work. It is reminiscent of Cuaron 's characterization of the story he adapted, "The Second Attack on the Bakery ". In an email, Cuaron said that 'he shared with other works of Murakami the feeling of "a parallel universe, which belongs to the fantasy or inner experience of the main character and is almost impossible to adapt.
Adapting Murakami can seem even more intimidating when the author describes his writing as a kind of private cinema: run through my head as I write? Sure. In fact, for me that's one of the joys of writing fiction - I'm making my own movie just for myself, ”he wrote in the email.
But Hamaguchi knows enough to avoid idealizing his source. It is more faithful to what "Drive My Car " made him feel when he read it.
"I have had to think about how I got the news, ”he said. "My emotional experience was something I wanted to convey to spectators.eurs of the film as much as possible. This was behind my thinking about the construction of the film. "
" Drive My Car "joins an already impressive filmography for Hamaguchi, who studied under a mood master, director Kiyoshi Kurosawa. The Five Hour Target " Happy Hour " (2016), Hamaguchi's first film to make waves at festivals, chronicled the lives of four women. In the romantic melodrama " Asako I and II " (2019), a woman falls in love with an old flame lookalike. Hamaguchi also directed "Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy " and wrote the screenplay for " WomanSpyware ", both published here this year.
Hamaguchi seems ready to extend this work, keeping a close eye on these inner feelings.
"Wha I really think about the mystery that is inside every human being," he said. "So if a character is able to convey that sense of mystery, that's when they don't feel unreal anymore. They really start to exist. If the character can make you feel that mystery. one way or another, for me this is the heart of working with fiction. "