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The Whispering Star - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Hiso Hiso Hoshi

Japan 2016

Drama, Sci-Fi

Sion Sono

Megumi Kagurazaka
Kenji Endo
Yuto Ikeda
Koko Mori

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The Whispering Star

The Whispering Star - Film Screenshot 1

Story: In the future man has been scattered throughout the whole universe, but only 20 percent of them make up the residents of space. The remaining 80 percent are androids created by them. Constant wars have taken a big toll on the population of man. Teleportation technology has moved everyone closer and made life more one-dimensional. For that reason there are more and more people who like to send each other parcels, even though their arrival can't be estimated even within the range of a year. One of the androids who transport those parcels with objects of emotional value is Yoko Suzuki (Megumi Kagurazaka). In her spaceship, which resembles a converted apartment, she passes time by listening to tape recordings of her predecessors and recording some of her own. Her only companion is an on-board computer that doesn't watch the stars outside for a long time already, but instead prefers to observe the insects within the ceiling lights. Yoko Suzuki delivers one package after another until she eventually satisfies her curiosity and opens them. But within she only finds very profance objects...

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The Whispering Star - Film Screenshot 4

Review: You never would have imagined that a movie by the director who brought an epic 4-hour love story in the shape of "Love Exposure" to the screen, which maybe felt half as long, could stretch time so much with his 101 minutes art house drama "The Whispering Star". Those who are expecting violence, sex, or simply the fast pacing we are used from Sion Sono will be desperately disappointed. The minimalistic sci-fi drama doesn't come across in black-and-white without a reason. It's art cinema and unfortunately just as boring. The reason for that being an intentional reiterativeness, which is supposed to show us the life of an android, that has a completely different sense of time than man. But people also yearn for, live and exercise slowness as a luxury good, which simply is something desirable in the future.

The Whispering Star - Film Screenshot 5

Maybe it's simply that mankind slowly surrenders itself to dying. Like a single individual, which at an old age slowly but steadily walks into the arms of death, mankind as a whole walks towards extinction. An extinction which they, after centuries and millennia, have to answer for themselves. Therefore, it's no coincidence that Yoko is always walking through ghost towns. It's even less of a coincidence that the filming has taken place in Fukushima. Abandoned buildings, empty streets, in parts overgrown sidewalks. Sion Sono hasn't dealt with Japan's trauma enough in "The Land of Hope" it seems and thematically he returns there. The ghost towns are after all without a doubt the actual protagonists of the story. A story of social suicide.

The Whispering Star - Film Screenshot 6

Actually, "The Whispering Star" can be interpreted solely in this way. The parcels which are sent only contain objects with memo value. As if they were one of the few minor things left of the now destroyed or left behind home town. The fact that all characters, without any exception, whisper in the movie, which the title also points towards, because "star" is used in a broader sense as "planet", is also an analogy to the fact that there is still only whispers about the Fukushima disaster and that it's not really mentally processed yet. Of course, the whispering can also be seen as an expression of mankinds frailty, which we aren't always aware of. A few disasters, a couple of wars more and mankind may be nothing more than a chapter in the history data bank of androids.

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The subject itself may be interesting, but it's not adapted appealingly. As if making fun of it, Sion Sono throws at us repitition after repitition. The first twenty minutes nothing is happening at all and even after that the plot stays extremely minimalistic, if there is any in the first place. We simply follow Yoko Suzuki, played by Sion Sono's wife Megumi Kagurazaka ("Cold Fish"), on her delivery route. The spaceship has its very own charm since the sci-fi elements stilistically all seem to be taken from genre cinema of the 30s to 50s. Yoko even gets her power from AA batteries, which she always changes herself! Yet, she drinks and smokes, even gets sick. Maybe this way an emotional connection to the viewer is supposed to be created, but for this her character is just too one-dimensional and the story doesn't deliver any interesting aspects.

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The Whispering Star - Film Screenshot 10

There is no way to sugarcoat it: "The Whispering Star" is boring. Particularly from Sion Sono you wouldn't have expected such a minimalistic movie. Then again, this may make the movie even the more fascinating for fans. Since the subject of "time" is also part of the plot and we get to see it from the perspective of an android, you may consider it as funny that the individual weekdays are constantly displayed, sometimes even the exact time, but that there is exactly nothing else happening on them than on all the other days! Some bright spots are Hideo Yamamoto's cinematography and typical art house scenes like those at the beach where we see single pieces of furniture standing around. There are also certain sound sources muted, creating an atmosphere of isolation. And at the end there is some impressive shadow play, giving us a glance at the lives of very different individuals. The movie's message and its Fukushima-focus are obvious and interesting, but apart from that Sion Sono's picture is also incredibly repititive and boring.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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