Tony Takitani is a film that captures the melancholy of Murakami’s short story of the same name. Tony, the main character, a mechanical illustrator by profession, is a son of two Japanese parents. He grew up alone with a caretaker in his tender age since his mother had died a few days after he was born.
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His father, a jazz musician, was never at home since he travelled a lot with his jazz band. This paper seeks to provide a critical analysis and comparison of the film and the novel Tony Takitani. The paper also highlights the film techniques that have been employed by the movie.
Tony, who becomes a successful draughtsman, lives alone in his spacious apartment, a solitude environment that captures the audience attention. In his apartment, the director Ichikawa Jun captures a spacious apartment with a huge doorway and a window emphasizing unutilized space. This gives the audience a clear picture of a visible world that characterized Tony’s isolation (Murakami 2002).
Tony’s loneliness begins in his childhood, growing up without a mother who died shortly after he was born. He also grew up without his father, a much travelled jazz musician who was always out for his music performance. In school, his different name isolates him from his peers since it sounds American.
His only consolation is his ability to produce drawings, unique in nature and with unbelievable accuracy. This talent seems to compensate his loneliness, a life he had no ability to control. He later owes his success to this talent, in college and later in his career (Ichikawa 2004).
Though Tony’s emptiness lingers throughout the movie, he appears unaware of his emptiness. At the beginning of the movie, the audience witness him say that he never thought he was especially lonely. Tony’s lack of awareness is presented clearly in the film, and makes his loneliness to be especially poignant. Later when he meets Eiko, who becomes his wife, he begins to understand and fear his inner solitude.
Eiko, a young beautiful lady, is a “shopaholic” who spends much of her time shopping for expensive clothes. She has a strange inclination to expensive designer clothes that even a spare room is converted into a wardrobe to accommodate her collections. At the beginning, Tony is mysteriously attracted by the relationship that Eiko shares with her wardrobe.
He tells her that he had never seen anyone who inhabited her clothes with such an obvious enjoyment. Later, he is intensely disturbed by her compulsive buying. He tells her to control her voracious desire for new clothes, a move that is emotionally welcomed by his wife. However, this ends up in a disastrous consequence that ends her life (Ichikawa 2004).
Director Ichikawa employs the sound and lighting technique to characterize the solitude atmosphere in the film. The movie is a slow dreamlike story that is built by its own atmosphere rather than plot as the story unfolds. The off-kilter piano is arguably a melancholy lullaby that characterizes the mood in the film (Weis 1985). The fable-like quality of the film is evidently depicted by the washed out colors.
Ichikawa has also employed dialogue to build the story of this movie. The dialogue between the protagonist and other people casted in the film serves to expose the nature of the character. It also serves to draw the audience into the events of the film (Mamer 2002).
The film Tony Takitani employs the third person narration extensively. This distances the audience further from the story that unfolds. The characters in the movie spread the voiceover by occasionally addressing the audience directly. This playful touch has been employed by Ichikawa to limit the mood from being too oppressive. It also draws the audience to the film as they lose themselves to unfolding events (Mamer 2002).
The story begins by telling the real name of Toni Takitani to challenge the mystery with the reality. This has been used by Ichikawa, the film director and Murakami, the writer of the short story to capture the bathos of human condition. Murakami proceeds to describe the consequence of Tony’s real name.
“His curly hair and sculpted characteristics” often made people believe that he was a mixed blood child, in reality; he was pure Japanese (Murakami 2002). However, Ichikawa has captured this introduction perfectly in the film.
The character posed by Ogata in the movie suits Tony perfectly from the short story. His slow movement and vacant face brings out his inner emptiness. At some instance, he is described by Eiko’s ex-boyfriend as dull.
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This description is what is portrayed by Murakami in his short story, especially before he met his wife, and later after her demise. After he is left alone, the audience sees Tony huddled in the wardrobe room, probably to share what was left of his wife.
The movie is based on a love story of a lonely man who becomes a professional in his field but lives in solitude. Ichikawa, the director of this film employs the third person narration technique to capture the short story authored by Murakami. Tony falls in love with a “shopaholic”, a woman who had a peculiar interest in shopping.
At one time when Tony takes his wife for a holiday, Murakami writes that while in Italy and France, she moved from one boutique to another like she was possessed (Murakami 2002). Ichikawa employs framing technique to emphasize the shopping problem with Tony’s wife. The camera often shifts from her expensive clothes to her expensive boots to show their elegance.
Ichikawa captures the theme of isolation that resonates in Murakami’s short story. According to Ichikawa, the isolation in Tony Takitani is genetic in nature. The father passes his loneliness to Tony, who literary imprisons himself in his house. Ichikawa uses third person narration as a distancing tool, using a low tone voice to match the mood.
He creates a simple stage and shoots most of the scenes by changing the position of the stage and the inside. Ichikawa also uses the leading actor and actress to play two roles reducing the number of people in the movie. Ichikawa uses all these techniques to capture the literal world of Murakami.
In the movie, Ichikawa highlights the contemporary loneliness and how a person can allow it to take over his life. Tony assists to create his own loneliness and attempts to fill the gaps he has created. In attempt to fill the spaces he has created, he continues to deepen his solitude.
Tony’s name has American’s origin after his father named him after an American army general. Tony was born during US occupation of Japan after the Second World War. Tony was given that name to help his father negotiate and earn favors from the Americans.
The narrator in the film states that being lonely is like being in a prison. Tony’s father and a jazz musician lie in a Chinese prison earlier in the movie. Later his son lies with the same loneliness in his jail, his own house. This is a clear indication of what Tony was going through all his life, loneliness and solitude. Ichikawa and Murakami helped Tony to build his own prison in his house.
When dating his girlfriend, he kept imagining how life would be if she decided to decline his marriage proposal. As Murakami observes, “his solitude became a source of agony and a prison”. He kept staring at the cold thick walls and contemplated committing suicide if he was rejected (Murakami 2002).
Movement technique has been used to emphasize Tony’s loneliness in his house. The right to left camera movement gives the audience a clear picture of his house and the solitude he was in. The film ends with Tony staring at a picture and thinking about someone else, other than himself.
This is his way of showing his optimistic attitude and willingness to continue hoping. In Tony’s wife wardrobe, the camera moves slowly through the rows of expensive dresses. The camera focuses briefly on each fabric to capture the sophisticated nature of the collection (Mamer 2002).
Ichikawa has also combined framing and lighting to capture the events in the film. Fade to black has been used effectively appearing like turning a page. The narrator is often cut out by the characters in the film that finish his sentences. The relationship between the narrator and the characters isolates them.
In addition, this is Ichikawa’s way of emotionally distancing the audience. The audience ends up not showing any sympathy for Tony but instead adopts his world.
There are some notable differences between the film and the short story. In the film, Ichikawa adds a scene that does not appear in Murakami’s short story. After Tony’s wife is dead, one of her best friends approaches Tony and agrees that Eiko was “a real pain”. He then declares to Tony insultingly that he was dull, just like his drawings.
This demonstrates that unlike Murakami’s short story, Ichikawa went further to emphasize the passive and pathetic state of the protagonist. The short story only sought to show the ordinariness of the protagonist character but the film marks the loneliness as exceptional.
The short story is an account of the essential loneliness in life, while the film, though, based on the story is an account of the essential loneliness of Tony’s life.
Ichikawa chooses to cast Rie Miyazawa to play the roles of Tony’s wife and the woman who plays the role of a secretary. Murakami’s story provides all Ichikawa needs for his movie, to produce both a familiar and a different plot. Ichikawa succeeds in building the story’s words with the film counterparts. In the story, the protagonist’s mother’s death is described in a simple way.
As the author puts it, “just like that, she was cremated” and then adds ”she faded into nothingness”. In the movie, the protagonist’s mother simply smiles back at the audience and vanishes into the trees.
I agree with the suggestion that “the woman was born to wear beautiful clothes”. Tony got married to a woman with a strange behavior and with an insatiable need to wear new beautiful clothes.
Eiko is arguably an incomplete woman who is attracted to fashions more than to anything else in the world. Wearing new expensive attires assuages her uncontrolled feelings of being incomplete.
Although, Eiko turns an entire room into a wardrobe; her desire to buy more clothes does not end. To this woman, no number, design or taste was enough, she kept longing for more and more. After Tony gets concerned with this behavior, he tells her to control her desires.
She agrees and even returns some of her unused collections. When she stops waiting for traffic light, she is taken away by the thoughts of the clothes. This is when she is slammed by a huge track and dies on the spot. This woman was indeed born to wear beautiful clothes and when she agrees to stop she meets her death.
On the contrary, Tony was born to live in solitude, to lose and to make other people to be happy. In his life, both in the short story and the film, his loneliness is the most emphasized phenomenon. He has no close parent or relative, his peers discriminate him since they doubt his origin, and his college colleagues do not like his drawings.
As the author writes, “he found it natural to be alone” (Murakami 2002). Although his wife spends a lot of his money on clothing, he does not object. He later puts a smile on another woman’s face when he attempts to hire her to replace his dead wife (Seats 2006).
Later Tony sold his wife’s clothes and his father’s records at a throw away price. Tony’s purpose in life was to suffer and relieve the sufferings of other people. Tony loses his wife, attempts to replace her with a secretary, but then loses the secretary again.
He then sells his wife’s apparels and shows at a throw away price. Tony then loses his father, and later sells his records, the only memory of his father again at a throw away price. In the end, Tony loses everything apart from his loneliness, showing that he was born to lose and to be lonely (Seats 2006).
Murakami uses the name Tony to signify Japan’s attempts to succeed in materialistic world, an ideology that contributed to defeat in war. This ideology undermined commitment of Japanese people to families, a characteristic found with Tony’s father. Tony’s father did not participate in the war, he instead fled to China, and this separates him from imperialism in Japan.
He was imprisoned in China and as other captives were executed, he was spared from death. This has been used by the author to highlight his solitude as a captive. After he is released, he moves back to Japan. Although he makes a family, he is incessantly on the move probably to counter his haunting experience in prison (Rubin 2003).
Ichikawa has employed the technique of impersonality by using an omniscient voice. This voice is often interrupted by the voice of characters in the film, especially that of Tony. This is a clear indication of a disconnection existing among the characters. The visual forms applied by Ichikawa take the expressive rather than decorative form.
The audience views the expressive sequence of shots of Shozaburo and Tony lying on the floor in a confined room. This is in his attempt to express the literal world in Murakami’s short story. The audiences often views Tony scratching his feet depicting that he is often uncertain about himself.
He scratches his feet to confirm his reality, a state that he is too lost to decipher. The profound distressing loneliness of present day Japanese culture is the main theme of Tony Takitani and which has been captured effectively in film by Ichikawa (Rubin 2003).
Ichikawa considered ideological factors in the making of Tony Takitani. This film represents a passage of a particular era in history of Japan and shows growth of ideas with the passage of time. Ideological factors are closely linked to the social attitudes of people. The interaction between people in a film, their idea of social life and reasoning is represented by ideological factors in a narrative film.
To understand the ideological factors that contributed in creation of Toni Takitani, we first need to understand this film as a social history. Most importantly is their ability to give a figure of the way daily life unfolded for all the characters.
These include how the characters worked, how they had fun, how they formed families or how they fall apart. This will give a clear understanding of how the fabric of daily life was made or changed. This will give an understanding of the ideas applied by the people in their daily life, and hence the ideological factors (Cassegard 2007).
Ideological factors can also be manifested in form of record of time in this film. Ichikawa has conserved gestures, rhythms, gaits, attitudes, and people’s interactions in different situations. In Tony Takitani, an audience can glimpse images of simple actions.
For instance, we can view how Tony scratched his feet to confirm his reality. The audience can witness the way Tony’s wife died and the events that lead to her death (Cassegard 2007).
Tony Takitani has been used by Ichikawa as a form of historical evidence that combines technological, cultural artistic and economic situation of Japan after the Second World War. Like other forms of representational art, this film makes vivid events. In this way, the movie portrays the social attitudes of the characters in the film, including the unconscious assumptions of Japanese societies.
In the film, Ichikawa uses lighting to show the emotional response of characters. He uses lens flare to invoke a sense of drama in the movie (Brown 2007). This is evident just before Tony’s wife is involved in an accident that ends her life. It has also been applied to give an expression of a real life scene. For instance, Rie running over a crest of a hill looks more of a real life photograph.
The director has used sound as background music, sounds of objects in the story and voices of characters, all which are heard both by the audience and the characters in the film (Weis 1985). Another important aspect of sound employed by Ichikawa is the narrator’s commentary and mood music to create the solitude mood and the melancholy atmosphere of the film (Mamer 2002).
Brown, B 2007, Motion Picture and Video Lighting, Second Edition. Waltham, MA: Focal Press.
Cassegard, C 2007, Shock and naturalization in contemporary Japanese literature Folkestone: Global Oriental.
Ichikawa, J (Director) 2004, Tony Takitani [Motion Picture].
Mamer, B 2002, Film Production Technique: Creating the Accomplished Image. Beverly, MA: Wadsworth Publishing.
Murakami, H 2002, April 15, Tony Takitani: A Short story by Haruki Murakami. New Yorker Magazine , pp. 1-13.
Rubin, J 2003, Haruki Murakami and the music of words. London: Harvill Press.
Seats, M 2006, Murakami Haruki: the simulacrum in contemporary Japanese culture. Lanham, Md: Lexington Books.
Weis, E 1985, Film Sound: Theory and Practice. Columbia : Columbia University Press.