TIFF 2023: Shadow of Fire pierces fragile psyches of ordinary people with fear of imminent violence

Shadow of Fire. Image credit: TIFF 2023

#ShadowOfFire; #ShinyaTsukamoto; #JapaneseFilm

Toronto/CMEDIA: Directed, produced, edited and cinematographed in 2003, in KAIJYU THEATER CO. LTD.  Shinya Tsukamoto’s latest Japanese film ‘Shadow of Fire’ was screened as a NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE on TIFF 2023 as a centerpiece.

The film examines the desperate lives of Japanese citizens in the immediate post–World War II period through the story of a child coming of age amid unimaginable hardship.

The cast of this film are Shuri, Oga Tsukao, Hiroki Kono, and Mirai Moriyama
Part of his war trilogy, which includes Fires On the Plain (TIFF ’14) and Killing (TIFF ’18), Shinya Tsukamoto’s latest film Shadow of Fire,  part chamber drama, part road movie pierces the fragile psyches of ordinary people with fear of imminent violence.

In a derelict ramen house, a woman earns money by offering the only collateral she has left: her body. A young soldier comes seeking her services, though his need for comfort outweighs his lust. He tries to forge a relationship with both the woman and the little boy who visits her nightly, all of them devoid of family due to the firebombing that laid waste to their city. When the soldier suddenly lashes out, this family is reduced to two, until the boy is forced to leave due to the woman’s inability to process her own trauma. The woman had narrated to the boy that she had a supportive husband who left for the war and has not returned. This thought always traumatized her.

The boy joins a man on a journey. Cheerful by day, the man whimpers in his sleep, reliving the horrors of his past in nightmares. He has a scheme to avenge the person who caused these horrors and plans to implicate his innocent companion. After taking the revenge, the boy is freed by the man and he returns to the home where he was earlier staying with a woman. But disregarding the boy’s request to stay there, the woman compels him to leave her house and make a living for himself. The sad boy then leaves for the black market where he faces threats and beatings. But determined to stand on his own feet, the small boy labors hard and adapts himself to the black marketeers’ life.

Tsukamoto ingeniously synthesizes form and theme and catches with his camera extra moments in which his characters speak volumes about their suffering.

(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)