Friends after 3.11
Comparing Stephen Daldry’s film version of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (out of Competition) with Friends After 3.11 (Forum, directed by Iwai Shunji) is an apples and pears exercise. Feature versus documentary, the headstrong rush into fiction versus lengthy monologues by opponents of nuclear power, Hollywood blockbuster versus small budget production, the perspective 10 years’ on, the immediacy of the recent past.
And yet. It’s also an exercise in comparing the validity of using medial means to explore catastrophes and the purposes served by media in dealing with them. Daldry’s movie has been criticized for its use of painful, collective memories in the service of cheap sentimentality: it’s fiction gone film, wrongly (we’re in the land of moral absolutes here) appropriating images that are the common property of everybody with an emotional recollection of 9/11. That’s most of us.
And yet a damn sight more people (including the writer of this blog) will indulge that kind of appeal to our sentimental past than will ever be willing to sit through a thoughtful, well-meaning, if tedious consideration of the clear and present possibility of future catastrophes. Over 21 million people have watched a particular Youtube clip of the earthquake and tsunami. Let’s take at least couple of zeros off that figure and we’ll have a generous estimate of the numbers likely to sit through to a collection of arguments that might help prevent that kind of angst indulgence in future.
Clearly though, that’s not what most of us want. We immerse ourselves in stylized catastrophe, then step back and talk of the artistic relevance of Daldry’s film as a study in the uses of memory. But think about it: the Fukoshima-themed documentaries presented at this year’s Berlinale are worthier objects of our interest.