Harmonium – Film Review
Director: Koji Fukuda
Cast: Mariko Tsutsui, Tadanobu Asano, Kanji Furutachi
by Jethro Pope
Koji Fukada’s Harmonium is a slow burning Japanese family drama tinged with tragedy, containing harsh truths on morality.
Akie and Toshio live with their daughter Hotaru. Toshio runs a small fabricating firm and Akie is the dutiful housewife, looking after their Hotaru, a bright girl learning to play the harmonium.
“Subtle suspense with clever plot twists”
So far so contentedly domestic.That is until a man called Yasaka arrives. He and Toshio are “old friends” and Toshio takes him on to work for him. And allows him to stay in the family home. Akie is at first dismayed that this stranger is lodging with them. But she soon warms to him after he helps Hotaru to tune her harmonium skills. Slowly we begin to understand more about his past and as he reveals more about himself, Akie’s interest in him becomes more than just friendship.
With Harmonium there’s an underlying sense that straying too far from an honest family ideal has serious consequences. And in the family’s case, Yasaka and Akie’s passion turns to a lust filled assault that ends in awful tragedy for Hotaru.
Without wanting to give much away, the second part of the film shows the family living with the consequences of their actions. It fast forwards eight years after the incident and Toshio is trying to track down Yasaka, who has disappeared. Akie, meanwhile, has become a withdrawn woman, obsessed with washing her hands and remorseful over her affair.
Although a family drama, Fukada cleverly manages to create subtle suspense throughout. There are clever plot twists that you simply don’t see coming. It’s just a shame that the ending doesn’t tie up the plots into a more thrilling finale than the sad drama that it becomes.
I can definitely see this film being given the Hollywood treatment for a western audience. At times sad, at other times thrilling, Harmonium is a story of how our past affects our futures and those we love.