“Over two years ago, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when the first state of emergency declaration was enacted, I lived life at home for the most part. When I did venture out, I didn’t use trains and instead rode my bicycle everywhere. A visit to a friend that was normally a 10-minute train ride now took closer to an hour. But it wasn’t only a matter of extended time—I also experienced completely new scenery along the way. This distance brought about various emotions, feeling unable to meet a person who’s too far away, or the sense of separation even if you do meet them. Spending my days wondering about the lengths I had to travel to meet someone inspired the idea for this film.”
The above paragraph was written as the opening thoughts of the statement for my previous film project, which was supposed to be shot last year. Due to various circumstances filming was postponed, but the sentiments were incorporated in the fresh start of SUBETE NO YORU WO OMOIDASU (Remembering Every Night). My experience of “distance” took on a new form as the basis of this film, so I felt the text was worth quoting here.
The protagonists of SUBETE NO YORU WO OMOIDASU are three women in different stages of their lives—their 20s, 30s, and 40s. They live in a satellite city of Tokyo known as Tama New Town. Approximately 50 years ago, Tama New Town was conceived and developed as a commuter city. At a glance, there is an artificial uniformity to the city’s scenery that lends it the impression of a manufactured movie set. Apartment blocks and parks seem to extend infinitely, with no way out of the surroundings in sight. As a child I lived in Tama New Town and have remained fascinated by its uniqueness ever since.
To the outside world the three women may seem isolated, but by walking, encountering others, and reflecting on the things important to themselves, they contemplate the distances that separate them and what lies between.
When the idea to shoot a film in Tama New Town occurred to me, I noticed traces left behind from human activity and the patinas that have formed over time amidst the town’s uniform scenery. Through further research, I learned that certain cultural and infrastructural projects were established out of the independent efforts of local residents, most of them women. Housewives at the time made efforts to improve the community through a variety of initiatives. It could be said that Tama New Town was built by women. With that city history in mind, I aimed to tell a story of modern women. Each with their own reasons, the three women of the story walk and ride the streets of Tama New Town over the course of one day.
Unlike the women of the past, the three protagonists are not aiming to build the community in solidarity. They’re each burdened with their own worries and feelings of isolation. Throughout the day they run into some people by chance, wait for others, and aren’t able to meet the ones they wanted to. Although they live in close proximity, they do not know each other. However, they recognize each other’s movements through the district, and the vestiges of their accumulated time spent leads to small transformations. I wondered if I could make a film where the fragments of the three women’s days resonate with each other.
To the outside world the three women may seem isolated, but by walking, encountering others, and reflecting on the things important to themselves, they contemplate the distances that separate them and what lies between. While walking itself may not decrease these distances, they may become conscious of them for the first time. Against the backdrop of the town’s repetitive terrain, where these women struggle to move forward in their lives, I desire to see what new views and emotions are born.
Translation: Jason Gray