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I want a film to leave me speechless. It can be because of a thought-provoking central theme or because the film explores its subject, leaving me not confused but curious to discover its meaning. There is no truth to the statement, Sometimes I just like to shut off my brain and feel entertained, because the experience of entertainment needs your brain to work. You are entertained not when youre hypnotised by the exciting kinetic cacophony of images, but when you engage emotionally or intellectually with a piece. To be rendered speechless by a piece of art just because it catches you off guard and throws you into a philosophical enigma? I yearn to indulge in something like that. 

The new film from Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Drive My Car) is a meditative, poetic, slow-paced eco-drama about the destructive nature of capitalism.

Set in a little village near Tokyo, Takumi (Hitoshi Omika) is the local jack of all trades. He takes his time in all his errands, even if hes late to pick up his daughter, Hana (Ryo Nishikawa), from school. No one complains; Hana just takes herself home through the forest.

Its that safe in this little village. The water is pure and pristine. The only disturbance comes from the occasional shot from deer hunters in the forest. Life is indifferent to the urgency of our whims because there is no urgency at all. In the first shots, Hamaguchi leaves a static camera capture movement, like a stream of water or someone picking up wild wasabi for supper. He seems to remind us that nature moves at its own pace; dont rush yourself to the end.

The peaceful community is upset by the arrival of a company set to build a glamping ground in the vicinity. They call a town hall meeting to present the project to villagers but are met with concerns. The septic tank is too close to the water source the village relies on; spoiling it would even affect the quality of the local udon noodle restaurant. The company comes with the promise of bringing business from the city but never stops to think about whether its money that people really want. There is no sense of the need for possession by those people as long as the work is done, the food is ready, and the home is warm, then what else can a person need?

Takumi is a stoic man. We get slight hints about his past but nothing to dwell too long on. He does his job with quiet serenity, offers effortless wisdom to anyone willing to listen, and rarely exaggerates his emotions, except for the little moments of frustration when he realises he forgot to pick Hana up. Hes precisely the kind of person a place like that would create.

Despite the optimism of the title and the bucolic and serene aspect of the film, Hamaguchi represents evil. The spectre of unrelenting capitalism threatens the future of that place. Unbeknownst to Takumi and the villagers, the owners of the glamping site have no interest in working in tandem with the community. To bring them in is to bring the inhumanity of the faceless corporation to its door in the name of progress that benefits no one and reduces its citizens to a life of servitude towards a goal that doesnt interest them.

This is contrasted by Hamaguchis quiet and contemplative direction. Its like he wants to experience life with the same lack of urgency while at the same time knowing what is about to happen to those poor people. Like a stream, you go where youre supposed to, at the speed youre meant to be.

Its the soundtrack that elevates the visuals. would initially be a short film to accompany composer Eiko Ishibashis new project, but it grew its scope and idea. However, the importance of the score remained in its DNA. It burns through the screen like its an epic statement. It fits the background of the nature surrounding the village and how it can be destroyed for no valid reason. It prepares us for the cryptic ending.

Because for all that its worth, the last five minutes are a harrowing experience. Theres nothing I could say that could give it justice, and I dont think I fully understood it. But I was speechless, floored by its emotional heft, from which I havent recovered yet. It reminded me of the work of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, where the boundaries of reality are distorted. Not everyone will like the turn of events, but anyone willing to be imbued by the films artistic sensibility wont quickly shake off the experience.

Verdict: 4 out of 5
A unique and esoteric experience for anyone willing to give in to the mystery.