Original title:Suzume
Director:Makoto Shinkai
Running time:122 minutes
Release date:14 april 2023
In a small peaceful town in Kyushu, a 17 year old girl, Suzume, meets a man who says he is traveling in search of a door. Deciding to follow him into the mountains, she discovers a single dilapidated door sitting in the middle of the ruins, the only vestige that has survived the passage of time. Giving in to an inexplicable impulse, Suzume turns the handle, and other doors open in the four corners of Japan, letting in all the catastrophes they contain. The man is formal: every open door must be closed. Where she has gone astray are the stars, dusk and dawn, a celestial vault where all times merge. Guided by doors shrouded in mystery, Suzume sets out on a journey to close them all.

Mulder's Review

Undoubtedly Makoto Shinkai has established himself with Your Name (2016) and Weathering with You (2019) as one of Japan's greatest animated film directors to the point that his new film after a triumphant release in Japan was selected to be in the official competition of the Berlinade (Berlin International Film Festival). While American studios such as Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Warner Bros Animation, Sony Pictures Animation dominate the world animation market, Suzume is all the more successful because it does not benefit from a budget as colossal as those but from a real undeniable know-how to give birth to a great animated film that will mark many minds by the true emotion that emerges.

The journey of 17-year-old Suzume begins in a quiet town in Kyushu when she meets a young man who tells her he is looking for a door. Suzume finds a unique, time-worn door that stands tall amidst the ruins, as if protected from any catastrophe. Apparently drawn to its power, Suzume reaches for the knob. Door after door begins to open all over Japan, unleashing destruction on all who are nearby. Suzume must then close these gates to prevent further disaster. In this realm, it is as if time has melted into the sky. Guided by these mysterious gates, Suzume will start her journey to close the gates and cross Japan by making many encounters.

Makoto Shinkai delivers with Your name one of his best films and appears as a real goldsmith as he takes care of his writing and the image of the film to create a real immersive universe in which the spectators will live a real intense cinematographic experience letting themselves be guided by a story making us go from laughter to tears. It would be interesting to see in each of the director's films the same desire to describe everyday Japanese life in order to insert magic into it, so much so that his film will remind us by some of its features of the equally magnificent The NeverEnding Story (1984) by Wolfgang Petersen. As with the latter, Suzume deals with the passage to adulthood, the emancipation of a child who must show real maturity in order to confront evil forces represented here by a giant worm causing earthquakes.

While many animated films strike by their obvious simplicity as if they were addressed to very young viewers, Makoto Shinkai takes the risky bet of elaborating a very complex universe in which the real world is in opposition with a dangerous and destructive universe managed by many important rules to respect. The other risk is to avoid repetitions linked to the fact that Suzume's main mission is to close doors to avoid waves of natural disasters. To do so, the scenario is a model of the genre to put forward the life in Japan, the family and especially the passage to adulthood of a young girl marked by the death of her mother in her young childhood. We can also appreciate in this film the fact of delivering an ecological message in which man must respect the natural environment at all costs to avoid many dangers. 

It is also interesting to see in this animated film the importance of Japanese mythology and more precisely how Nazamu, a legendary Japanese creature, a kind of giant catfish living under the ground and able to cause major earthquakes, is replaced here by a kind of earthworm, just as gigantic. This legendary creature is at the very center of the story and also allows to show that Japan is a country in constant risk of many earthquakes. We understand better the inspiration of Makoto Shinkai to deliver a story that is very personal and to see the vision he has of his country and its many contrasts. Far from the high industrialization of Tokyo, many small villages continue to live in the middle of nature and especially in adequacy with it.

Suzume also marks the third collaboration between the group RADWIMPS and the director Makoto Shinkai after Your Name and Weathering with You. Once again, the music plays an important role in the film to reinforce its atmosphere but also the real emotion that comes out of it.  Finally, we will note that our video of the 4K Q&A that took place in the presence of the director at the UGC Normandie in Paris will be online soon (early April).

Written and directed by Makoto Shinkai
Produced by Kôichirô Itô, Genki Kawamura
Starring Nanoka Hara, Hokuto Matsumura, Eri Fukatsu, Shota Sometani, Sairi Ito, Kotone Hanase, Kana Hanazawa, Matsumoto HakuĊ II
Music by Radwimps, Kazuma Jinnouchi
Production companies : CoMix Wave Films, Story Inc.
Distributed by Toho (Japan), Eurozoom (France)
Release date November 11, 2022 (Japan), Apri 12 2022 (France)
Running time : 122 minutes

Seen on February 27, 2023 at UGC Normandie, room 01

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