Drive My Car |

Content / criticism

“Drive My Car” // Start in Germany: December 23, 2021 (cinema)

Film and theater are the themes that director and actor Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) with his wife Oto (Reika Kirishima), a screenwriter for Japanese television. So for Yusuke it has become an integral part of his everyday life that he listens to the recordings made by his wife during long car journeys, which are supposed to help him learn his texts. One day, however, his wife dies unexpectedly, just days after he found out she has a lover. Yusuke cherishes her last recording, listens to it again and again and withdraws from his other obligations. When asked five years after Oto’s death whether he would like to direct Chekhov’s play for a theater festival in Hiroshima, he immediately agreed. When he arrived there, the people in charge of the festival provided him with a driver, the locked Misaki (Toko Miura), which accompanies him from now on.

So the preparation for the production soon begins, with preliminary talks and first castings, with Yuksuke Koji Takatsuki (Masaki Okada) met again, the actor with whom Oto once had an affair. Since no one has signed up for the role of Vanya, to everyone’s surprise, Yusuke casts the young man so that rehearsals can begin the next day. But the mood is tense

The search for the emotional core

It is well known that film adaptations of literature are a dime a dozen and also the work of the well-known author Haruki Murakami has already provided the material for films such as Lee Chang-dongs Burning or Tran Anh Hung Naokos smile. However, the transfer of the word to the screen is a process that contains many pitfalls and often leads to a soulless adaptation, like the director Ryusuke Hamaguchi in interviews about his film Drive My Car reported. For his adaptation of Murakami’s short story it was important to him to find the emotional core, that feeling, what he had when reading the story and to start his work from this basis.

The difficulty in adapting a story by the world-famous author lies in his aesthetic of observation and slowness. Little really happens in the writer’s novels and short stories, since the core lies in the observation or in those moments of standstill, which connects his work with the work of Hamaguchi. This is how it is in his film, for example Passion (2008) a comparatively banal moment that triggers a rethinking in a large number of characters as well as an existential conflict. In the case of Hidetoshi Nishijima (Creepy) Yusuke is a stalemate that has lasted for some time and that began with the loss of his wife. The camera seems to imitate this state of affairs and the many moments of movement, the protagonist’s long car journeys while listening to his wife’s spoken words, cannot hide the fact that he is still a long way from getting over the significance of this loss. The slow narrative style that is usual for Hamaguchi, as well as the focus on seemingly simple details, which turn out to be significant in retrospect, are evident Drive My Car out, a film that takes the time to fathom or at least to guess the emotional state of its characters.

The roles we play

In addition to aspects such as grief and loss, literature itself also plays an important role in Drive My Car. Right at the beginning, Yusuke and Oto talk about a story that they want to integrate into their new script and which is about obsession, fetish and love. Much later, the story is supposed to catch up with the director again, as does the role of Uncle Vanya, which he actually no longer wants to play, as it has become unbearable for him due to the personal loss. Instead, there are other, self-made narratives and roles that the characters have taken on in order to cover up their own pain or to distract from it. Hamaguchi’s staging leaves the necessary ambivalence and seems to rely on the sensitive, withdrawn play of its actors.

Finally, it is also the silence and the space that opens up through this, which makes the special riding of Murakami’s work as well as this film adaptation. Especially in the interplay between Masaki Okada, whose character is also trying to process a loss, and Nishijima emphasizes this aspect of the plot and shows those moments of observation and non-action that are particularly important for the story.


OT: „Drive My Car“
Land: Japan
Year: 2021
Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Script: Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Taamasa Oe
Template: Haruki Murakami
Music: Eiko Ishibashi
Camera: Hidetoshi Shinomiya
Occupation: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Toko Miura, Masaki Okada, Reika Kirishima, Yoo-rim Park, Jin Daeyeon, Sonia Yuan

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