When the Metaphor Becomes the Monster: Exclusive

It has been said that the unusually dense concentration of giant monsters in Japanese film and manga is a consequence of that country’s precarious geographical positioning on a major fault-line, making it particularly susceptible to earthquakes. Recent disasters there have certainly resulted in the sort of destruction that daikaiju eiga (giant monster films) depict. Though the great grandfather of giant monsters, Godzilla (Gojira), was seen by its director Ishirô Honda as a metaphor for a different kind of disaster (the Bomb that decimated Hiroshima and Nagasaki), daikaiju are often understood to be stand-ins for seismic disruption and its devastating effects on Japanese society. Perhaps that’s why the monsters so often appear from underground or from the depths of the ocean. It’s a zeitgeist sort of thing.

About to be screened on 27th October in a special charity event is a new film that takes the metaphorical connection between the earthquake, the City and the monster one step further and makes it explicit. Here, Tokyo is not just bricks and mortar, but an entity that has had enough. The film is called EDOnism, and it’s tagline says it all: A Quake Awakens.

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EDOnism (Italy/Japan-2010; dir. Alessandro Fantini)

Synopsis:

Edonism is the tragic story of James Hallway, an English businessman from the UK who comes to Tokyo looking to fulfill his dreams and lead a peaceful life with his beautiful wife, Sophie. Instead he finds toil, torment and alcoholism. Unable to bear his descent into self-destruction, Sophie leaves, abandoning him to his downward spiral into the gutter. Day by day, his reality is consumed by hallucinations and weird perceptions. Once things can’t get any worse, he falls into a coma.

When he awakens from the coma, he begins to learn some terrifying truths about his condition and his connection to a long-forgotten legend from ancient Japan. Together with the resourceful Dr Geena Landlord he attempts a desperate quest of discovery that leads them both to the very heart of a conspiracy involving a secret government order and the enigmatic being known as the The Cat Fish.

Trailer:

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Above: Director Fantini (as Secret Agent #2) studies the script

 

The film’s production company, LAFAN Productions, is teaming up with BierVana in Akasaka and O.G.A. for AID to host a very special screening of EDOnism on Thursday, October 27 at 7:30pm-10:30pm. For more information check out the event’s Facebook page. Proceeds and donations from the event will be given in support of O.G.A. for AID.

O.G.A. (ORTIZ Global Academy) for AID was formed in response to the Eastern Japan Earthquake Tsunami disaster of March 11, 2011. Since its inception, the group has been dedicated to bringing relief aid, heart care programs, and contributing to the reconstruction of the town, Minami Sanriku that was almost completely swept away. The EDOnism benefit screening will raise funds for the Community Learning Center that is being established in Minami Sanriku.

Program includes the screening of Miyukino Snow Film Festival entrant ‘Walking Lost’ – a short video release by LAFAN Productions directed by Nate Jensen. There will also be a special preview of LAFAN’s upcoming film, The Ballad of Harper Lee and Dickie Dee, which is due for release in early 2012.

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Film details:

Director, editor, animator, screenwriter and soundtrack composer: Alessandro Fantini
Producer, art director, co-writer, casting director and location manager: Lorenzo Fantini
Line producer: Miles Elliott
Assistant producer: Lucy King
Post production supervisor: Nate Jensen
Make up artist: Kana Yoshida
Cast: Sacha Mühlebach, Helene Salvini Fujita, Hiro Super, Lucy King, Lorenzo Fantini, Kyle H., Nate Jensen, Tony Evans, Alessandro Fantin, Cyrus Malekani.
Genre: Sci-fi thriller, drama, adventure
Runtime: 65 min.
Language: English
Filming locations: Tokyo

Above: The cast of EDOnism, with Alessandro Fantini in the centre

 

According to producer Lorenzo Fantini, the inspiration for the film came from a variety of influences. “The initial concept came out of Alessandro’s experience of the L’Aquila Earthquake in Italy last year,” he explained. “The traumatic effect of that experience translated into his exploration of Earthquake mythology. Some of the central imagery of the film came from a painting by William Kurelek, ‘The Maze’. This depicted a section of the human skull and the figure of a Cat Fish. He then discovered quite by accident that the Cat Fish was related to earthquakes and associated to key events in the history / mythology of Japan.”

The Tokyo setting, while appropriate from a thematic point-of-view, came about through a combination of convenience and artistic circumstances. Lorenzo explained: “The idea of setting the film in Tokyo had come about through a desire to work together on a film / media project. Alessandro’s aesthetic and creative inclination has been heavily influenced by Phillip K Dick, and of course Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. He had really wanted to capture the atmosphere of the metropolis as a living, breathing character for long time. My residency here, and knowledge of the city, finally allowed him to realize this desire.”

Read the complete interview with Lorenzo Fantini.

See the Gallery at the end of this article for more images from the production of EDOnism, as well as drawings from an animated sequence within the film, just like this one of the “Cat Fish”:

The Metaphorical Premise:

There are stories and legends of how cities are not just buildings, roads, electric and water systems, but living, breathing entities that are sleeping as their oblivious inhabitants go about their daily toil. We, as humans, always take for granted that they will always be there servicing our needs, creating our conveniences and cocooning us from all the elements nature can throw at us. But what if they awoke, what if they decided to be less than benevolent, to be less than kind to us?

People say if you’re not careful cities will eat you alive, some enter the sprawling metropolises and mega cities of our world, and never return from them. Some who enter change, their life-force drained and spent. A city is a force of nature, just as the wilderness, the deserts, the mountains and the oceans are. A city is not an inanimate realm. They are a world of dangers, aeon old mysteries and secret societies. (From the EDOnism website)

An Essay on EDOnism:

REMEMBERING EDOnism
by Alessandro Fantini

When I faced for the first time the idea to shoot a movie in Tokyo, while I was discussing the hypothesis with then soon-to-be EDonism producer Lorenzo Fantini two years ago during his latest stay in Italy, I immediately thought that the script should have deal with something gigantic, frightening and epic. No other city in the world is able to suggest the feeling of a majestic and intimidating human beehive as much as Tokyo. It seemed that all my obsessions for movies like Blade Runner, Akira and Ghost in the Shell as well as my interest in Shintoism, Ukiyo-e art,  and Suehiro Maruo, would have take me sooner or later  to nowhere but to the enigmatic land of geisha, samurai, Godzilla and hi-tech marvels.  As usual, the way I fleshed out the concept and the story was closer to the process of conceiving a painting or a comic than to a traditional pre-production of a movie.

As soon as I began to figure out the several images inspired by the “abstract” perceptions of Tokyo and his history, I started to be able to link all those “icons” together into a synaptic narrative map.  Actually the very first drawing I made on my moleskine was that one of a dissected brain connected to the foundations of buildings and skyscrapers. Indeed I think the real monstrous mystery we’re still dealing with, is and will always be the human brain, so I decided that the plot had to revolve around this statement by developing an ambiguous visual and narrative syntax, balancing this obscure metaphysical content with more recognizable “sci-fi” and “cyber-bunk” schemes. The earthquake became the most powerful dynamic rendition of the inner conflicts of mind, even because I was able to experience it in person during the night of 6th April 2009, when a cataclysmic quake almost completely destroyed l’Aquila, the capital city of Abruzzo, the region where I live.  I woke up in the middle of the night after dreaming of being inside a shaking train leading to a subterranean dark station, since my unconscious was trying to translate into mental visions the trembling of my bed (luckily I was more than 100 km far from l’Aquila, so my home town was left intact). Since I like to take note of every vivid dream may occur in weird circumstances, this one about the train was later integrated into the screenplay, shaping the scenes leading to the epilogue (I think it has been a logic choice, ‘cause the Tokyo subway somehow is a superb reflection of the cerebral maze).

Thus all the legends about the giant Cat Fish I read over my researches about Japan myths and folk tales nourished my imagination providing me more key plot elements: the mythological subterranean creature causing earthquakes was the perfect embodiment of the menacing mystery of Nature, like a sort of invisible Moloch or Leviathan, as well as the symbol of the tumultuous relationship between mankind and the earth, the mind and the human body. After the major quake of March 2011, the Tsunami and the Fukushima incident some segments of the story and symbolism now seem to foreshadow those unpredictable tragic events, although I think it’s just an eerie coincidence since the movie features a so (sadly) recurrent natural phenomenon in Japan.  However, I didn’t want to work out the umpteenth disaster flick or monster movie: on the contrary, I wanted to filter the same sense of amazed anguish of movies like “Cloverfield” or “The Ring” into the more intimate realm of the life of  a “gaijin”,  James Hallway, and push it forward to a wider psycho-mythic dimension depicting a contemporary world ruled by the obsession of pleasure and money (more or less the same approach Von Trier had in directing his latest movie “Melancholia”, focusing on the state of mind of the characters while a planet is about to destroy the earth). Once all the connections were finalized and the core of the story was clear, the writing of the screenplay took me less than one month. Over the winter Lorenzo, who vigorously produced the movie, helps me to refine the dialogues, finding the locations and casting the actors, and until the beginning of the principal photography we discussed and debated for hours the characters motivations on Skype, while at the same time I kept painting covers, drawing storyboards and composing music in order to build a solid aesthetic platform to the upcoming shooting and editing phases. Even though the original screenplay didn’t contain any “anime-like” sequence, drawing and animating the back-story recounted by the character codenamed “Catfish” when I was about to finish the editing in April 2010, was the coherent output of that intense visual preproduction.  Tokyo provided a colossal set to the movie, an emotive environment that neither digital effects nor scenography will ever be able to reproduce with the same visual power, offering the perfect physical backdrop to the metaphysical journey of the protagonist. Indeed its breathtaking amount of details properly evoked the hyper realistic visionary ambiance that I imagined while I was writing the script. Basically EDOnism has been a grand scale effort propelled by the target of finalizing a project that at the beginning could sound utopist, if compared to the very limited range of technical and financial resources at our disposal.

If we consider that, aside the two weeks of shooting in Tokyo around Shibuya, Roppongi, Odaiba island and the Meiji Park, the whole time span of production evolved between the two hemispheres, between Italy and Japan, the movie is also the best demonstration of how the power of teaming up with people who desire to share the same vision together can defeat any time, space and money boundaries.

In a certain sense EDOnism could be an example of the unbeatable strength of the Collective Unconscious.

Gallery:

Source: Lorenzo Fantini via Avery Guerra; EDOnism website. “The Maze” image sourced from Art Fixx.

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One Response to When the Metaphor Becomes the Monster: Exclusive

  1. Pingback: Producing EDOnism: An Interview with Lorenzo Fantini | Undead Backbrain

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