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Tetsuichiro Tsuta

Tetsuichiro Tsuta
Somewhere in Japan, two men live in a new age house, through the windows of which the reflections and ripples of the rain shimmer in black and white. One of them explains to a journalist that the house’s design allows them to gather rainwater and use it for the plants that they grow in order to meet their needs. The other brings them tea. One is granted speech and social consideration, the other labour. But when they leave the house to walk through the fields or go fishing for eels, or when they try to kill a tortoise for a meal, the positions are reversed. An unexpected cruelty suddenly spices up this slapstick variation on diverging relations to nature in contemporary Japan. (Nathan Letoré)

Your film is based on the interactions between two characters, one of whom seems to be in a position of power in the way he speaks, while the other slowly emerges as more confident when he needs to act. Why this duo structure?

This film depicts the Japanese people’s sense of nature. According to me, this one has evolved uniquely from a mixture of ancient Japanese animist Shintoism, tied to hunter-gatherers, and Buddhism, which came over from the agricultural cultures of the Asian continent.
I assigned each of these elements to one of the characters’ backgrounds, and developed their coexistence as a metaphor for Japan. Beyond this, there is no hierarchical relationship; it only looks that way because Jin is the home’s owner, while Tera is a freeloader. The fact that Jin, who has come from the city, is completely powerless when he is in a natural setting, and becomes incapable of leading his life without Tera’s help looks like a fascinating inversion of their relationship. I’ve actually met a lot of people like that.

The first scene introduces the house in which the characters live, where much of the film takes place. Could you tell us more about this house, and why you chose to film there?

The house is called the Earthship, and it was built according to the idea of off-grid circular housing advocated for in the 1970s by the American architect Michael Reynolds. It’s a house made from tin cans and earthenware, and that uses energy from the sun and rain in a circular manner. From the point of view of environmental preservation, it has drawn attention worldwide as a « sustainable house », and in the film Nomadland, one section has a conversation about the Earthship.
Its main characteristic is that after the rainwater has filtered from the roof and been used as running water in the house, the drainage from it automatically circulates under the floors and is used to water the plants growing inside the house.

Ecology seems to take a key place in the characters’ universe, yet they are also seen spending a lot of energy on killing an animal. How did you conceive of their relationship to nature?

If you look at it superficially, you may think killing a living being is cruel, but Jin has decided to live his life as a person who receives the lives of plants and animals as a matter of course, so that’s how he lives.
As a city dweller, Jin can get his food without having to face the animal’s slaughter, but because he understands intellectually that he was running away from life, he considers that hunting becomes a necessary action.
On the one hand, since Tera has been living his life that way since childhood, he hasn’t really thought that deeply about killing animals and plants, but looking for what delicious food is may be a very human thing to do.

Why did you choose to shoot your film in black and white?

I chose black and white film because I wanted to emphasize the nuances of grain and light. Moreover, I also thought the mismatch between the nostalgia attached to black and white film and the futuristic objectives of the Earthship house would scramble the viewer’s sense of time.

Interview by Nathan Letoré

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Technical sheet

Japan / 2022 / Black & white / 16 mm / 45’

Original version : japanese
Subtitles : english
Script : Tetsuichiro Tsuta
Photography : Yutaka Aoki
Editing :
Sound : Kota Sasai
With : Ryubun Sumori, Hiroki Teraoka
Production : Aiko Masubuchi.
Filmography : Tale of Iya, 2013.