The Whispering Star

The Whispering Star ★★★★★

TIFF 2015 – Film #20

Reason for pick – interesting premise as spotted in the TIFF description.

More akin to a tone poem or a Haiku than a narrative driven film, The Whispering Star gently glides along drawing its audience into the life of A.I. Yoko Suzuki, machine ID 722, a robot delivery woman who brings parcels to the dwindling human population, now scattered amongst the stars. A.I.'s now vastly outnumber humankind.

With a lineage that could be traced to Le Quattro Volte, Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, The Turin Horse, and The Strange Little Cat, Battlestar Galactica and A.I., director Shion Sono constructs world where there is nothing but time; ‘It’s acceptable for packages to be a few years early or late’.

Packages are always sent from human to human, and our robot protagonist spends her years in space travel contemplating why, particularly seeing that instantaneous teleportation has existed for years. With each human contact, she absorbs, and understands, a bit more.

For the most part, the people she delivers to, and the planets they inhabit, are in tatters, but Sono frames them lovingly; one customer offers her his bicycle, and invites her for a drink. She replies ‘Next Time’, to which he responds ‘Remember, you will be young forever, .. come back before I’m dead’. That simple line hit like a bolt from the blue, and there is so much like it in this marvelous rumination on humankind and mecha, and how one effects the other.

Whispering Star is also a non-judgemental observation of what we humans can do to ourselves with our obsession with technology, as the sets for the ‘planets’ that Yoko visits are in fact towns in and around Fukushima, and the customers that Yoko serves are their real inhabitants.

Slow, lilting, and haunting in its minimalism, Whispering Star won’t be for everyone, but for those who connect with it, the connection will be deep.

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