Snow Falling on Cedars directed by Scott Hicks

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The tagline “first loves last. Forever” and the title of this movie relegated it to- please accept my apologies- Chick Flick status in my book, and relegated this movie to the back of my DVD cabinet for four years. It was free with purchase of some software, though I can’t remember what. Then, my mother-in-law was in town, and it seemed like a good movie to watch with her, plus a friend had recommended it no more than a week ago.

The movie begins slowly through the mist, and I was uncomfortably edgy. I have been watching lots of action movies, Justice League cartoons, and grisly thrillers. It took me the entire opening sequence to become accustomed to the pacing. This pacing continues throughout the film. Even through the highest drama sequences, the pace is deliberate.

The opening sequence is of a fishing boat in the mist and the plot surrounds this incident. The creaking of the fishing boat, the flames of the lamp, and the sounds of the fog are repeated throughout the movie. Other than the forest, the whole movie seems to take place on a vessel, not dry land. The courtroom in particular mirrors the fishing vessel- right down to a scene where oil lamps are lighted. Visual quality of this film is incredible, and carries the Japanese tradition of deliberate visual art. However, this visual nature becomes very heavy-handed at times, such as a scene showing a cedar branch with water rushing over it on the floor. The shot lingers a little too long, saying “look at me! I’m visually symbolic!”

The plot was very interesting, and definitely kept me engaged. The characters are richly painted and their tribulations are real and relevant, both to the time of the film (WWII-era) and to current times. The plot does struggle under its own weight as it shows the Japanese-American war camps, but recovers nicely as Hatsue (Youki Kudoh) develops. The character development, visual flashbacks and themes, and general melancholy of the entire film are all reminiscent of The Sweet Hereafter (another tragic but excellent picture).

Finally, I enjoyed the film’s treatment of first young love. I can’t really say more than that without revealing more than I would like about the plot. This film appeals to a wide audience and should make it onto your Netflix list.

[rate 3.5]

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