Village of Dreams

Village of Dreams (1995)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Childhood Drama  |   Run Time - 112 min.  |   Countries - Japan  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Yoichi Higashi's Village of Dreams has a definite dream logic to it, but not because it's fragmented or overly surreal. Rather, it has a basic absence of narrative structure; it doesn't expand on its themes, shed further light on its characters, nor provide moments of catharsis. Certainly, part of this is because the main characters, twin brothers in their 50s, are remembering (and embellishing) snippets of their childhood in order to write a storybook about it. A child's perspective of events -- especially remembered 50 years later -- is unlikely to be reliable at all, let alone have a beginning, middle and end. While this seems to be at least somewhat intentional on the part of the writer-director, it can be frustrating for viewers seeking any sense of narrative momentum. Viewers do get plenty of the boys' mischief, as the twins seem intent on causing almost incidental distress whenever the opportunity arises. Perhaps their overly permissive mother and absent father are to blame for this seemingly pointless, though mostly harmless, mayhem, but there's never a solid explanation for it. Higashi is far more interested in creating mood, and does so well. Twin-brother actors Keigo and Shogo Matsuyama are the key to this mood, as Higashi makes maximum use of their eerie physical similarity in the way he directs them: not necessarily as separate characters, but symbiotic parts of one whole. There's a pleasant absurdism to the things they imagine, such as underwater spirits, a fish whose thoughts they can hear, and a trio of elderly women, who sit in a tree and comment on the action like the Japanese version of a Greek chorus. These themes never amass into anything larger, but maybe Higashi's point is that they don't need to.