It is rare to find an individual who is completely happy with themselves. Most people, especially those without love in their lives, find themselves constantly searching for a way to improve or replace these pieces of themselves that they find lacking. Momoko Andō’s Kakera: A Piece of Our Life (カケラ, 2009) is peopled with characters who are unhappy with their present circumstances and are looking without rather than within in order to fulfill their needs and desires.
Kakera tells the story of a college student named Haru Kitagawa (Hikari Mitsushima of Love Exposure), who stays with her boyfriend (Tasuku Nagaoka of Moon and Cherry) despite the fact that he treats her quite badly. One day in a café, she is approached by an older woman named Riko Sakata (Eriko Nakamura) who finds her attractive. This awkward, yet tender scene marks the beginning of a complicated relationship between the two women which runs the gamut of emotions from warmth and affection to jealousy and confusion.
Momoko Andō has managed to capture the fragile beauty of a romance between women with an authenticity and sensitivity rarely seen in feature films. Each of the characters in the film has a kind of void in their lives that they try to fill with the love they have for another character and as in real life the course of these relationships never runs smooth. Riko’s love for Haru is complicated by Haru’s unresolved feelings for her boyfriend and her own sexuality. Haru’s boyfriend is one of those types of people who seem to always desire what he cannot have. And Riko’s client and lover Tōko (Rino Katase) is also consumed by desires that remain only partially fulfilled. This theme is visually represented in the film by the prosthetics that Riko designs for people who have lost body parts. Prosthetics allow their wearers to disguise the ravages of illness or accidents that they have suffered, but they are not a permanent replacement for what has been lost.
Kakera is a film that examines female sexuality in all its ambiguities. Riko’s love for Haru is complex. She can be loving and kind, but she can also be possessive and jealous. It is a brave film in many respects, though might have been even braver if Andō had included less chaste lovemaking scenes between the female protagonists. This would have been a welcome contrast to the cold, empty sex scenes between Haru and her boyfriend that look more like rape than love-making.
The film has a feeling of authenticity about it thanks to not only the sincere performances of the actors but also the use of recognizable locations from around Tokyo, which ground the film in a very realistic, contemporary setting. As a female spectator, I also took great delight in Andō’s use of female spaces that normally get left out of films. There is one wonderful scene in which Haru is shot from a high angle using a public squat toilet to put a menstruation pad into her underpants. It is an intimate moment that marks a new phase in Haru and Riko’s relationship. This scene should not have been as surprising as it was as it’s a part of women’s everyday lives, but startles because these moments always get omitted from films.
Kakera was adapted by Andō from the popular manga Love Vibes by Erica Sakurazawa and was filmed beautifully by cinematographer Hirokazu Ishii. The soundtrack was written by James Iha, the former guitarist of Smashing Pumpkins. It is available on DVD in the UK from Third Window Films. It is also available from cdjapan (JP only).
This post is part of the Queer Film Blogathon hosted by Garbo Laughs. To read more LGBT posts from the blogathon click here.