MOVIE REVIEW: Harmonium

What first starts off as a drama soon turns into a Hitchcock style thriller in this piece of amazing from Japan.  A man turns up at his old friends house after spending 11 years in Prison, we later find out it was for a gangland murder, and the ex-convict asks for a favour.  The friend owns a sheet metal fabrication business and he gives his friend a job doing simple work.  The favour is extended to allowing the ex con to move in with his wife and child.  The convict soon becomes close to the wife Akie, and her daughter Hotaru.  This continues until the Convict, Yasaka, and Akie begin to have feelings for each other.  When Akie won’t sleep with Yasaka he takes a drastic step.  That is just the first half of the film.  That is just when it turns from drama into thriller.

As I’ve gone blue in the face telling you, I don’t do research about the films I’m going to see before I step into the theatre, I hope you remember that as I’m tired of telling you.  One of the downsides of that is if a star that I hate is in a film I’m not prepared, and weep into my popcorn.  The best upside is Harmonium, when something happens like Harmonium I am bouncing through the streets like I used to when I used recreational drugs… not that I ever did that. 

Anyway the film has that classic Hitchcock feeling to it, everything that you assume is going to happen at the start and middle is turned on its head.  After the rules of the start are thrown out the window you are owned by the film.  The only reason I took a point off is that the film lost me for about thirty seconds near the end.  That was it.  The only chink in the armour.

The performances are just outstanding as the circumstances change every single aspect of the whole casts performances have to flip over.  That’s not easy, in fact most A-List celebrities in any other film this year would find it next to impossible to do.  The characteristics of the actors just switch over, and then you start to think about their motivations for their actions.  You have to actually think while watching this film and for some people who may be a put off.  But please trust me that this is a slow-paced thriller that doesn’t feel for 90% of the film like a thriller, and is worth your time and cash.

It’s the fact that you don’t think this is a thriller, or horror movie, like Whatever happened to Baby Jane, or Psycho, where the horror is contained in a basic human form.  The charm of the relationship between the convict and the wife, which you believe is going to be the main focus of the film, just turns sour out of nowhere.  The impact of that relationship going south changes everything with horrific consequences for everyone.  Then we move 8 years into the future and everyone is living with the ramifications that happened before.  What you think you knew before is confirmed in a bleak way.

Some people won’t be able to get into their heads the beauty and wonder of the script, the slow nature of the plot, but for those giants who stick with it, the princes and princesses of modern cinema who will pay for the enchantment of the cinema, will love this.  Worth your cinema cash.

Director: Kôji Fukada
Writer: Kôji Fukada
Stars: Mariko Tsutsui, Tadanobu Asano, Kanji Furutachi

See full cast & crew

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