by Chris MaGee
While going through the Tokyo International Film Festival website I came a cross what looks like a really intriguing film, and what's really interesting is that it's a science fiction film. Why is that interesting? Well, in my opinion (and this is just my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt) I've never thought that Japanese filmmakers ever really made a lot of successful live-action science fiction films. Yes, in terms of anime they have had huge success and in terms of live action you have the first Godzilla film, or say a film like Hiroshi Teshigahara's "The Face of Another", but for the most part Japan has tried to emulate the "Star Wars" space opera formula, but they simply don't have the budgets to pull them off. I mean, have you seen Kinji Fukasaku's "Message from Space"? I rest my case.
It seems that director Kanji Nakajima has has wisely ignored the space battles and high tech gadgetry in favour of a much more poetic and metaphysical science fiction story with his 2006 film "The Clone Returns to the Homeland". It tells the story of an astronaut, Kohei Takahara, played by Mitsuhiro Oikawa (City of Lost Souls, Doomsday: The Sinking of Japan) who dies while in orbit but is then brought back to life as a clone on Earth. The only problem is that Kohei's clone is haunted by the memory of Kohei's twin brother who died when he was just a child when he saved Kohei from drowning. After the clone finds Kohei's lifeless body still wearing its space suit he mistakes it for his twin brother and sets off on a journey back to his boyhood home to search for answers about his existence.
Pretty heady stuff, and I think in many ways "The Clone Returns from the Homeland" hearkens back to a much more thought-provoking and literary science fiction that fans are much more familiar with on the page than on the screen. A lot of other people have thought so as well. The script for "The Clone Returns to the Homeland" won the 2006 Sundance/ NHK International Filmmakers Award and German auteur Wim Wenders acted as one of the film's executive producers.
Check out the trailer for "The Clone Returns to the Homeland" at the Tokyo IFF site here and read more about the film at its bilingual Japanese English website here.