While the rest of the world is flocking to the next Maze Runner or Hunger Games spectacular, Japan has produced one of the most impactful stories about the intelligence, resourcefulness and perspicacity of young minds to willfully supercede the system that I have seen years. Thus, my vote for Best Feature in the NYAFF is Narushima Izuru’s epic adaptation of Miyabe Miyuki’s novel Solomn’s Perjury. SP is part of a family of films in NYAFF undertaking different brands of student/youth justice and is one of two very different Japanese films this year to tap into a subtext of the post-economic bubble (the other being Pale Moon).
Though broken up into two parts, Solomon’s Perjury is a single film and in my opinion would be best shown conjoined. It moves forward with a constant and unsensational pace of discovery that gives its story the integrity it deserves. SP is begins with the discovery of a young boy’s body in the snow outside his school by his friends. The case is rather quickly ruled a suicide but when letters from a witness accusing specific individuals of murder are mailed to the police and faculty, a group of students set out to find their own answers, which leads them to conduct a mock trial at the school spearheaded by student Ryoko Fujino. As the case has been “settled” by the Police, their only desire is to arrive at answers with no punishment decreed. The film is importantly about the act of questioning itself, about not taking a situation at face value and about the complexity of young hearts and minds.
SP affects so deeply because of its touching portrayal of this moment in the lives of its characters, young and old, is differently formative for each. While shifting between cool blue and sepia tones, SP demonstrates nuance and exposes the imperfection of everyone in the face of ongoing tragedy to a degree I have almost never seen before. Parents, students, faculty, media and police are all represented as fallible and dimensional parties to the events. Part of this has to do with SP’s generous length. At over 4hrs when combined, SP truly feels like it honors the small details of its source (a book I have admittedly not read). Everything that happens in SP, big and small is stitched into the lightly non-linear pattern and thus the inertia is able to grind sullenly but urgently ahead while its mass of emotional/ psychological/procedural entanglements steadily grows. This is a quality it shares with another NYAFF entry, Port Of Call (a phenomenal film and a near tie for Best Feature) that favors character and inflection over sensation. It too is more about the act of investigation, the non-linear collection of details and the personal significance of that process. However, SP shows more patience. Even as it approaches the end, it refuses to rush or ramp its speed, and that too makes it all the stronger.