There are films you love, films you hate and films that, quite frankly, leave you more perplexed than George W. Bush with a bumper book of Sudoku. Kakera – A Piece of Our Life (2009) is likely to fall into that latter category for many people, as Momoko Ando’s directorial debut is certainly something of an enigma. However, if you’re willing to allow the film to unfold the creases of your mind you may just come away with a smile. One would be inclined to highlight possible comparisons with the delicacy and vibrancy of Wong-Kar Wai or similarities to the female-female relationship at the centre of Ji-Woon Kim’s A Tale Of Two Sisters (2003).
Based loosely on 1996’s Love Vibes by Japanese manga artist Erica Sakurazawa (though 80% of the film’s screenplay is supposedly new material written solely for the screen by Momoko Ando), Kakera is the story of Haru (Hikari Mitsushima, last seen in sparkling form in Shion Sono’s masterful Love Exposure ), a quiet college student in a loveless relationship with a brutish, misogynist boyfriend.
Quite by chance, she meets Riko (an engrossing performance from Eriko Nakamura), a young prosthetics artist with a penchant for fragile girls and something of a ‘Yandere’ character (an initially loving partner who reveals destructive capabilities). Riko shows an immediate interest in Haru and this simple encounter becomes the catalyst for the film as they struggle with the nature of their relationship and the impact this has upon their sense of individuality. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the film is that it is peppered with little gems of wisdom, perhaps the most inspiring and universal being the idea of not wasting any opportunity for the fear of not getting another one – carpe diem if you will. It it also invites you to share in the frustrations born out of feeling trapped and restricted in a relationship (perfectly illustrated in scenes when Riko joins Haru at her college socials).
Kakera will delight those with a genuine interest in the subtleties of Japanese culture. Whilst the film is certainly not a sentimental tourist advert for the country (a small cast, locations ranging from the mundane to the ludicrous), fans of culture-infused cinema will enjoy director Ando’s numerous flourishes of visual and narrative originality. For those new to Japanese cinema, I urge you to see Kakera – A Piece of Our Life with an open mind; sometimes a question asked is better than a question answered.