JAPAN

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by Dmitrij Ritter

grade: 7

In just nineteen minutes, Dmitry Ritter’s Japan shows us two (not too) distinct worlds: the inner world of the protagonist, depicted through captions running on the screen, and Japan, with scenes of everyday life, people sleeping in the streets, moments of gathering, walls with elaborate graffiti on them, grocery shops and empty streets at night. Because, in fact, most of the filming took place at night, when the city is asleep, when one feels even more alone and no one is ready to help. As part of the programme Diagonale 2020 – The unfinished.

Fear of living

An extremely delicate and personal work, Japan. Dmitrij Ritter’s short film – which was supposed to be part of the Diagonale 2020 and, following the festival’s cancellation, was included in the programme Diagonale 2020 – The Unfinished – deals with a topic that is often talked about, but which only those who have experienced it first-hand can say they really know: anxiety disorder and related panic attacks.

A work, this one, which is inspired by the personal experience of the director himself, as a caption at the opening tells us, and which sees, little by little, the way towards a new-found freedom, towards a new self-awareness. In just nineteen minutes, then, Japan shows us two (not too) distinct worlds: the inner world of the protagonist, represented through captions which follow one another on the screen, and Japan, where we are shown scenes of everyday life, people sleeping in the streets, moments of gathering, walls with elaborate graffiti on them, grocery shops and, last but not least, empty streets at night. Because, in fact, most of Ritter’s filming took place at night, when the city is asleep, when one feels even more alone and there is no one ready to help.

Yet, in its own way, Japan represents a comeback to life. Something the protagonist dreams of, but which still seems too far away. There is no dialogue in Japan. And with live sound, silence becomes even more deafening.

It is, therefore, the topic of anxiety and loneliness that are the absolute protagonists in this short film by Dmitrij Ritter. A work, this one, which develops, therefore, on several levels: on the one hand we have the captions referring to a reality taking place in the city of Vienna; on the other, Japan, with its lights, its sounds and its colourful but, at times, still too dark streets. And again: on one side we have the intimate thoughts of the protagonist, on the other the outside world.

This short but intense Japan is, then, studied down to the smallest detail and well balanced. And if, at first, the captions may seem a somewhat naive solution, they immediately turn out to be indispensable in staging the director’s own drama. As far as the filming in Japan is concerned, on the other hand, a separate discourse must be made. Several people often appear on the screen who, collectively, seem to have something special in common: each of them, despite being together with other people, seems hopelessly alone. And immediately, we are reminded of Tsai Ming-liang’s sophisticated cinema, with its long shots, its protagonists grappling with their inner struggles, its interminable silences and, at the same time, large cities that are portrayed as real characters.

Let us agree: the Taiwanese director’s directorial approach is much more extreme and rigorous than that of Dmitry Ritter in his Japan. Yet, despite everything, this precious little short film skilfully adopts a typically Oriental style of mise en scène, making this new language completely his own. Even when short animation inserts peep on the screen, as necessary elements to show us the completion of this long journey. A real journey to distant lands, to new dimensions, to a new, rediscovered serenity.

Original title: Japan
Directed by: Dmitrij Ritter
Country/year: Austria / 2019
Running time: 19’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Dmitrij Ritter
Cinematography: Dmitrij Ritter
Produced by: Dmitrij Ritter

Info: the page of Japan on the website of the Diagonale; Japan by Dmitrij Ritter on youtube