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Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2001

His turn to talk

I interviewed Hideyuki Hirayama in the summer of 2000 at Nikkatsu Studio, after spending a morning inside a dim, dank soundstage, watching him film Riho Makise. Makise was working on an etching and was padding silently about her house -- an early scene in "Turn," but one of the last in the shoot.

Director Hideyuki Hirayama

In contrast to her quiet intensity, Hirayama exuded an easygoing charm, looking younger than his 50 years with his deep tan and his headband. At the same time, he was every inch the veteran director, exerting an unforced authority. I could imagine him winning over the most prickly actress -- or the kids who played the leads in his three hit "Gakko no Kaidan (School Ghost Stories)" installments.

There have been a lot of Japanese movies in the past decade with the same "what if" type of story line as "Turn."

That's true. When I first read the script, I thought it was awfully quiet. Of course, a lot happens in the course of the film -- for example, the heroine finds herself alone in this new world, then she meets this strange guy and so on. So there are various dramatic touches, but essentially it's a rather low-key film.

When I read the script and realized that the heroine was going to be alone, I thought you would end up with something like "Robinson Crusoe." [Laughs]

I knew it would be a boring film unless I could make the audience accept the reality of a one-person world. So I've put a lot of stress on that aspect.

This is a society that takes the ability to communicate for granted. But for the heroine, it becomes enormously important.

Technically, communication has become very easy today, but communication is not only about the ease with which you can talk to someone. It's more about feelings and the mutual exchange of those feelings.

Makise is hardly ever off camera, but she seems very comfortable with the role.

I don't know whether "comfortable" is the right word, but I feel she has thoroughly become her character, Maki. She is in about 90 percent of the scenes, so I worried that she might get fed up, but that hasn't happened -- she is a strong person. She looks rather delicate, but when you see her onscreen, you realize how much power she has.

The situation reminds me of a "Twilight Zone" episode, in which time stops and the hero is moving about in this world where everyone else has become like department-store mannequins.

The idea of time repeating itself and [the heroine] going out and finding no one on the streets is not so new, I think. There have been any number of American films like that. I don't believe it is such a new, groundbreaking situation.

So you had to make it look new?

More than try to make it look new, I focused on the theme of communication, which is not especially new or old. It's something that never changes, and I think we have to value communication more than we do. That's what I've tried to make the film about.

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