11 April 2009

Memories of Matsuko

On the surface, Memories of Matsuko may appear like Amelie with its visual carnival and fairy-tale-like storytelling. But once the film finishes, there's something much heavier and interestingly more rewarding in this Japanese film.

The film charts the growth of a woman called Matsuko from her childhood till her death. What is special about Matsuko is that she just has too much love to give. Luck is, however, not on her side as her love is never returned: her father seems to devote all his love to his ailing sister, her boyfriends are either incapable of love or show their love through domestic violence (with of course Matsuko on the receiving end).

The fact that she is constantly beaten by her boyfriends has turned Matsuko into a pathetic creature who chooses to let herself be beaten than to stay alone without love. One may say that she's stupid, unable to learn from her mistakes, but I'd venture to say that the director manages to turn this stupidity into something rather heroic. She chooses not to learn from her experience, hoping that one day her whole-hearted love would be reciprocated both in similar quality and quantity. Her ability to absolve men's follies somehow equates her to God -- or at least a human god who is desperately in need of love.

The visual bonanza is somehow ironic. The colourful, flowery landscape of Japan should not blind us to the fact that there's a great deal of violence going on here. The contrast between the beautiful setting and the acts of violence (as in the scene where Matsuko is beaten by a teenager to death) is shocking. Yet, somehow this should be reserved to Japanese culture, whereby its pop culture, seemingly innocent, is laden with extreme violence and oppression.

However, like Happy Endings the film ends with hope. Even though the happy ending may not befall to Matsuko, it may be for those who learn from her, like her nephew Shou, or for those who are affected by her warmth and unrelenting faith in love. Hopefully this will happen to most viewers of this film.

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