The Whispering Star

The Whispering Star ★★★★

The Whispering Star works in almost complete opposition to everything else Sion Sono has made. He is a director attracted to putting everything on screen. An over-abundance of jokes, camera moves, nudity, violence and plot. He is cinema's most exciting maximalist. The Whispering Star stands out as it is a film defined by its static camera, black and white cinematography and wispy character sketches. However, like any Sion Sono film it is filled with ideas.

The Whispering Star is formally about what it means to be human. Like Under the Skin, but with a quotidian focus that belies its Science-Fiction trappings. This is a spaceship of leaking taps, faltering computers, moths trapped in light-fixtures. The film slowly moves, punctuated by amusing interstitial titles focused on time, as Megumi Kagurazaka, as an android delivers packages around a galaxy where humans have been blown to the wind. The loneliness of the interactions, highlighted by the black and white photograph, is dramatic. The one burst of colour, revelatory.

I have uncharitably thought of Megumi Kagurazaka in the past, based on films like Guilty of Romance and Cold Fish, as basically fulfilling the function of hysterical cleavage. However, here she is really great. Subtle, downplayed, lacking warmth, but still humane, if not human. The film is predominantly about her face, rather than her actions.

The Whispering Star clearly, deliberately invokes Fukushima. The haunting survivors of a great tragedy. The empty street. The wild nature. Over-run towns. The silence. It is a film, using tragedy to invoke a sci-fi setting. It is also mature and sensitive. The scenes between Megumi Kagurazaka and the non-actor extras are handled with surprising maturity by Sono.

The Whispering Star is a mature work, from a director who is almost impossibly immature. It is contemplative and ruminative; it is thoughtful and full of ideas. It is nothing like the rest of his over-flowing filmography. It is intelligent, humane sci-fi. A wonderful film which invokes Andrei Tarkovsky (literally at one point, copying his famous scene with the lit match being carried back and forth) and does it with revery and without failing. It perhaps doesn't have the beauty of Tarkovsky's visuals, or the limitless philosophical intellect, but this film is a rather fully-formed, meditative piece of work.

A tremendous minimal sci-fi film from the most unexpected source.

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