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Movie Reel a Million Miles Long

Wolf Children Snow and Rain

One of the things that my brother said I should do while I was in Japan was watch a movie. So, my second week here, I found a cinema and looked at what they had. At the time, it was just movies I wouldn't have been interested in watching in the US, and didn't think would be improved by more expensive tickets and a language barrier.

I went back yesterday and checked again. The movies had shifted a bit, and there was a new one that looked appealing. オオカミこどもの雪と雨。This one had three things going for it. It was a Japanese movie, it was a children's movie, and I understood the title. Unfortunately, they were sold out yesterday, so I went back today and bought a ticket.

Somehow, even in the part of me that was preparing to buy a ticket, I'd forgotten about the actual buying a ticket process. You can't pick up a movie, put it on the counter, and pay for it. It doesn't even have a menu that you point to and say 'Kore.' Besides which, I don't think I've ever bought a movie ticket before. Usually someone I'm with buys it for me.

Also, apparently at Japanese theaters you pick your seat when you buy the ticket. So they pulled out a seating chart and asked me where I wanted to sit. I understood what they were asking for, but I literally had no idea where to sit, so I just stared at the sheet blankly. I eventually managed to communicate my not-caring, and then they picked a seat for me.

It was tricky, but reassured me that, when I needed it, my Japanese skills were there. I was able to recall enough of the movie title and answer most of their questions. (I think I told them the time when they were asking how many, but fortunately I only got one ticket instead of 1,720.) I even managed to show my student ID and get a student discount.

Like I'd noticed at other movies, just because I'm watching a children's movie doesn't mean that the trailers were all for children's movies. Which means when I walked in and found my seat, I had several minutes of watching the trailers and wondering if I'd have a very dull two hours of not understanding anything.

I'd seen a fair number of the trailers before. None of them made any more sense in Japanese then they had when I watched them in English.

I think there was only one other Japanese film shown in the trailers. That one was live action. I didn't have any idea of the plot, but it seemed melodramatic. I'm not sure if that's because the movie was, because movie trailers in general are, or because without being able to understand the language I mentally filled the dialogue in with lines from the movie trailer I'd seen most often.

The only trailer that surprised me was Avengers. That one surprised me by being in English. Spider Man was one of the films playing when I checked two weeks ago, The Dark Knight Rises is playing later this week, but Avengers doesn't come out until mid-August. When discussing it with other people, we agreed that the most likely explanation was it was being dubbed into Japanese. But if they were dubbing the movie, wouldn't the trailers be dubbed too, and not simply subtitled?

(Warning: Spoilers contained below)

From the title, I guessed it would be about two wolf-children: Snow and Rain. I was right.

The movie was good, and I mostly understood what was going on. I'm curious how much of that was from my knowledge of Japanese, and how much I would have understood even if I didn't understand a word of Japanese. Short answer: two words ('bye-bye.') But plot-wise, I probably could have figured most of it out.

A lot of the more emotional scenes, there was only music playing and visuals. For example, when they move into a new house there are a lot of different shots of the mother repairing it and making it liveable. In another shot, it switches between the daughter's classroom, where she's being social, and the son's, where he's sitting in the back, alone.

Other scenes relied mostly on a a couple of words repeated. For instance, when the son is almost drowning, the mother is shouting his name, and he's shouting 'Mom.' In another scene, both children become wolves and start fighting each other, while the mother calls 'Yuki! Ame! Stop!'

There were also scenes with dialogue, some of them quite important. For instance, the daughter's arc peaks with her revealing to one of her friends she's a wolf. (This is also in an abandoned school during a storm, so you know it's an important scene.) She says something that contains the word 'wolf.' (Wolf- ookami, was really easily recognizable. Something about the sounds of the syllables. It made the movie easier to follow than it would have been if it had been about bear children.) Then the curtain blows to cover her, the shadow turns into that of a wolf, and the goes back to reveal a wolf head. She talks a bit more, then the curtain covers her and she changes back. Her friend says something, and she starts crying. It's not until she says 'thank you' that I realized he said something nice.

As a side note, the audience was much quieter than an American audience would have been. That shouldn't really have come as a surprise, but... when I watch movies in theaters, the audience will laugh, even at things that aren't that funny. There were some scenes that I found amusing- like the father bringing his pregnant wife a live chicken he'd caught as a wolf- that the audience barely reacted to. The mother laughed more than the audience when her daughter described how all of her friends ran away because, while they were making daisy chains, she was catching a snake and proudly showed it to them. Only one line got a significant chuckle from the audience. I really wish I knew what that line was.

It was a new experience. I'd watched things in Japanese before, but that had always had English subtitles (except for the one movie with French subtitles.) Although I sometimes tried to only look at the screen after they'd talked, the subtitles were still a shortcut to figure out what was going on. Besides, then I would miss the visuals. Watching a movie in the theater meant I couldn't even rewind it to figure out what they're saying. Still, I think I picked up enough to figure out what was going on, and it was fun.

In a way, it felt like one of the more immersive experiences I've had. Class doesn't feel real, because there's always a set lesson, and that's not the way real life work. Most conversations have been short and repetitious. Even when I'm not talking in English, I'm still thinking in it. When I try reading something in Japanese, it's with liberal amounts of translation tools.

But, for the two hours the movie took, I had no translation tools. There was no lesson being taught. If I tried thinking too much I'd miss what was going on. The only way to understand the movie was to keep watching, keep listening, and keep paying attention. And if I missed what happened in a scene but kept watching I'd either figure it out, or it would turn out to be unimportant. I just needed to pay attention.

Posted by Soseki 05:28

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Sounds like it was fun. But you didn't say if there was popcorn.

by MamaKat

By the way, Sabrina is visiting Mt. Fuji for two days, then coming home, and her computer died, so...may not see any posts until she's home (and done sleeping.)

by MamaKat

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