Last night I finally watched Hana no Ato (After the Flowers). It’s a Japanese period film starring Keiko Kitagawa. It’s based on a short story by Shuhei Fujisawa, whose work was the basis for similar movies such as Twilight Samurai.
I was planning on getting it on DVD as soon as a version with English subtitles was released, but it never came out, so after waiting for over a year and a half I got a fan-subbed version.
Keiko plays Ito, who is the daughter of a clan official. Without any sons, he has trained Ito in swordsmanship. One day Ito meets a lower ranking samurai, Magoshiro, who asks for a sparring match. During the match they make a connection. However, Ito’s future husband has already been decided and she tries to quench her feelings.
This might sound like a very romantic story, but it’s not typically romantic as much as a story of respect and quiet admiration. I don’t want to spoil the story more than that.
Watching the swordplay makes me want to take up kendo or iaido again.
The movie progresses slowly, but it’s not boring. Far from it. I was actually pretty tired when I sat down to watch this movie, but it pulled me in with its great attention to detail and almost meditative feel of the everyday tasks that the characters perform. I like how, for instance, you get to see all the movements involved when Ito opens and closes the door. Or how she gracefully shakes the snow off her umbrella. How each action is performed with full focus, instead of like nowadays when you usually do several things at a time. The cuts are few and far between, which adds to the immersion. Mostly the background is silent or filled with faint sounds of nature, but I liked the movie score when it was playing.
Keiko looks as beautiful as ever. She looks very elegant wearing a kimono exposing nothing but her face and the back of her neck.
If I were to say anything negative about the movie it would be that a lot of the dialogue in the first half of the movie is very formal and complicated. Slow and understated movies like this one isn’t for everyone, but I really enjoyed it.