INTERVIEW: Film Director Miwa Nishikawa

INTERVIEW: Film Director Miwa Nishikawa
Director Miwa Nishikawa.
(Dreams for Sale © "Yumeuru Futari" Film Partners)

“Dreams for Sale” (2012), directed by Miwa Nishikawa, screened at the inaugural Japan Film Festival in San Francisco from July 27 through August 4. The director herself made an appearance and answered various questions from the audience in an effervescent atmosphere. Nishikawa has received numerous awards both at home and abroad for her films “Yureru” (2006), “Dear Doctor” (2009), and “Dreams for Sale” (2012).  While many Japanese films tend to be remakes, Nishikawa continues to create original works and is considered a rare gem in the Japanese film industry.

“Dreams for Sale” tells the story of a young couple who, after losing everything in a fire, conspire against young women by committing marriage frauds in order to save money, but encounter a series of unexpected events while getting entangled with the women they deceive. The lead actors, Takako Matsu and Sadao Abe, along with other supporting actors, possess excellent acting abilities, magnificently expressing the solitude lurking deep in the psyche of human beings. This human drama certainly prompts numerous interpretations.

BLOUIN ARTINFO Japan caught up with Nishikawa during the Japan Film Festival and asked her about her new film, why she chooses to create original works, and the current state of the Japanese film industry.

“Dreams for Sale” has been screened at movie festivals and events around the world. Did you notice any differences in responses from audiences and critics depending on where they were from?

I first received an invitation to the Toronto International Film Festival, and later toured through Asia and Europe, where I attended some of the events. The film was screened at the Chicago International Film Festival and at the Japan Society in New York right before it made its way to the Japan Film Festival in San Francisco. I think viewers respond pretty similarly regardless of where they’re from. But I think the role of women varies according to the society, so in England there was a viewer who said, “I don’t understand why that couple didn’t get divorced after experiencing such deep problems.”

The main characters in your previous films were all men, which means that this new film is the first one that tells a story from a woman’s perspective. What was the motivation behind this decision?

I sometimes look at women who are close to me and contemplate how “women are impossible to understand.” This could be my mother, or someone familiar to me, but sometimes I get scared of people who made the decision to become “someone’s wife.” I fear their strength and awkwardness. In Japan, it used to be a standard way of life for women to get married and spend the rest of their days as a wife.  In our time, women have many more options, and yet some choose to become a wife just as women have done in the past. I’m sure the strength and awkwardness that the modern women possess are much different to that of the women from the old days.

At the same time, the women in our time experience a lot of dilemmas in their life as well. But whether they plan it or not, there are women who don’t become wives. It all depends on the individual, of course. These women also experience all kinds of dilemmas and complex emotions. Just because women have more options doesn’t mean they’re all satisfied and happy. I sense that they experience difficulty in life, and I chose to highlight those difficulties of living as a woman.

You create draft plans for all of your films. Do you have any desire to create films from original pieces by other authors?

Hmm…I can’t say that I will never do that. The original pieces that I receive offers from are all very well written novels or manga, and I feel like I can’t top that. I can’t present something that would surpass that. Creating stories or screenplays and formulating ideas through research are the only things that can only be done by the director. Once on the set, most of the work is done by the staff and the actors. I’d like to continue doing those tasks that can only be done by me.

Is it true that you sometimes create films inspired by your own dreams?

Yes. If I dream of an interesting storyline, then I use that as a baseline. When you have a very memorable dream, it allows you to find an unexpected side of you. Sometimes it catches you off guard to think that you were feeling such emotions unconsciously. Encountering one’s human nature in the most unexpected way is what interests me.

What are your thoughts on the present Japanese film industry?

It’s boring. Nobody wants to embark on a venture. We need to search for inspiration in order to gain more creativity. This is a warning for myself as well. I think we should try something more dangerous. People can live without having films in their lives. The reason why films exist is because they’re interesting. If directors continue to replicate something that already has been done, or fear failure, it takes away the meaning of why films exist in the first place. The film industry operates on a financial system, and I’m grateful for the financial contributions, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the heart. The film industry became boring ever since people who don’t have their hearts in the right places started investing in them. I want to go against that. I’d like to work with people who have the right intentions to create something that nobody has created before.

Are there any film directors or artists that you were inspired by?

I love Sidney Lumet. If I can create films like his, I have nothing left to do. Lumet is considered a social film director, but he always depicted the lives of humans. Using real world events as tools, he provided great pleasure to his audience as a storyteller while telling real human stories.

What plans do you have in the future?

I’m in the process of writing a new piece. I plan to present it in a few years. It takes me a very long time to create films. I don’t like to rush to create. It’s been ten years since I became a film director, and I always felt that there was nothing special about me as a director. But I’m a firm believer in working hard to pass on the appeal of films to the next generation. I plan to take my time in order to make films that I’m fully satisfied with. 

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