Masatoshi Nagase, actor in a leading role in the film “An”, talked about the film
“An (Barrier-Free Version)” was screened from 13:30 on Nov. 23 (Mon.) at the NTT CRED Hall No. 1
This human drama portrays the relationship of an elderly woman who formerly suffered from a form of leprosy (Kirin Kiki), the middle-aged owner of a dorayaki (red-bean paste filled pastries) shop (Masatoshi Nagase), and a junior high school student who frequents the shop (Kyara Uchida). The story is based on a novel by the poet, author and musician Durian Sukegawa. The director of the film, Naomi Kawase, garnered attention at the 2007 Cannes International Film Festival where her work “The Mourning Forest” received a Grand Prix award. The art director of “An” was Kyoko Heya, the director of this film festival.
After the screening, the large standing-room only crowd burst into applause, followed by the dashing appearance on the stage of Masatoshi Nagase, who played the dorayaki shop owner. The screening was followed by a talk show that was hosted by Mai Oshige, an announcer from Hiroshima Home Television.
Mr. Nagase, who was visiting Hiroshima for the first time in 20 years, commented smilingly that, “I just arrived some 20 minutes ago and can’t really believe I am here.” The atmosphere in the hall was friendly and relaxed.
This completely “barrier-free” showing (meaning the film had voice guidance narration and Japanese subtitles) served as a debut of such pioneering functions. Mr. Nagase commented that, “This barrier-free version marks a new type of fim presentation. I hope that it helps increase the number of filmgoers.” Discussing how he became involved in the production, Mr. Nagase, grinning, said that, “The director, Ms. Kawase posted a comment on the Facebook page of the company I belong to. This is also a new way of doing things.” He continued by stating that, “Ms. Nagase is a world-famous film director and I really wanted to work with her, so I answered, ‘Of course.’”
In regards to the work of the director, Mr. Nagase stated, “She’unique. Usually, I can just get into character after arriving on the set but with her, I had to be Sentaro from morning to night. There was no one saying “OK, Action!” or “Cut.” Revealing the secret of the filming, the actor said that in order to completely become his character of Sentaro he, “I really took my time…I went to his hometown to feel the same breeze, I spent the night in the apartment where he lived.”
He spoke for the first time about his long-time co-star Kirin Kiki: “She is truly a wonderful actress. Even now, when I hear the ending song of this film, I feel a bit overwhelmed. The love Ms. Kiki shows for her character, Ms. Tokue, and the feeling of vexation for not protecting her can really cause a welling up of emotions. I want to work with her on every picture from now on.”
Regarding Kyara Uchida, who is the actual granddaughter of Ms. Kiki and played the role of the junior high school student, Mr. Nagase commented, “In contrast to the three other junior high schoolers in the film, who act very cute and charged up, she plays a junior high student with a more dignified character. She is actually the same in real life and a real cute young lady.” The young actress showed her dedication to the craft in coming all the way from her current home in London to Japan for the filming.
Mr. Nagase revealed that although he bought a hot plate to practice making the dorayaki dough, they actually used a flat griddle in the movie so that practice didn’t really help much. Talking about leprosy, he said that, “It was just like the line I say in the movie, ‘I feel ashamed that I knew so little before.’ Even though I had read some things about the disease, it is completely different to hear that someone you know actual suffers from it.”
At one point, the discussion jumped to the Hiroshima Carp baseball team. Mr. Nagase, who spent his youth playing baseball in Miyazaki, shared this story with us: “Back when Takeshi Koba was the manager, the Carp players, who were training in Miyazaki, were kindly signing autographs for us, and when they finished, they said ‘Thank you” to us. I thought, ‘Wow! They are really pro players.’”
Finally the actor left us with this message: “You cannot say that a film is completed just because the production has been wrapped up. A film is completed when it is viewed by other persons, and is therefore still evolving until it is finally screened. I am so very thankful and happy that all of you could watch this film today. Although this is only the second Hiroshima International Film Festival, I hope it continues for 20 or 30 years more.”