January 6, 2022

VIFF 2021 | Rehearsing 'Drive My Car' – Grieving Theatre

"Chekhov is terrifying."
Tōko Miura Ryusuke Hamaguchi | Drive My Car (Doraibu mai kā) | VIFF 2021
Vancouver International Film Festival
VIFF 2021—Japanese auteur Ryûsuke Hamaguchi adapts famed novelist Haruki Murakami's short story of the same name from his collection, Men Without Women, in the hypnotizing road drama Drive My Car (aka Doraibu mai kā), a three-hour mediation on grief, loss, and the healing power of theatre.

Set around an experimental, multilingual production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya for a Hiroshima theatre festival, how the director and his lead, a remarkable Hidetoshi Nishijima, use the repetition and meaning behind theatrical performance to express a layered understanding of the text behind dramatic art is truly meaningful. Repressed emotions and an almost denial state of contemplation drive the sadness of the characters before reaching a breaking point.

As we follow a bright red Saab 900 Turbo driving the quietly spare streets across Japan, the film revolves around the act of rehearsal. Nishijima's theatre artist character, Kafuku, rehearses lines constantly in the car, with his cast, on stage, and in every facet of his life. This process is healing for his mind and the only way he can understand his feelings and emotions after the loss of his wife.

There's a scintillating, therapeutic quality to Drive My Car's multi-act rumination on the despair of suppressed mourning through slow catharsis. It's an emotionally devastating yet hopeful ride that relishes its lengthy running to time to fully process its emotional bearings before fully revealing the soap opera happenings behind the interior lives of the characters we have been following.

Drive My Car screened at the 2021 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the Gateway series. It also screens at the VIFF Centre, Rio Theatre, and The Park Theatre.

More | YVArcade / AV Club / Indiewire / SCMP

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