Mizu no onna / Woman of Water

Mizu no onna / Woman of Water (2002)

Boredom or dramatic meditation?

Director: Sugimori Hidenori
Writers: Sugimori Hidenori
Date: 2002

Genre: Drama
Description: Water and fire, girl who owns a bathhouse, arson, symbols, pictures, beauty, love

Cast: UA, Asano Tadanobu

Crew of note: Music by Kanno Yoko

Runtime: 115 mins.
Color: Color

Ryo is the sole-proprietor of a bathhouse in the country. One day she is visited by Yusaku, a man who she shares no past history with. He decides to stay there, and works with Ryo in the bathhouse. Their relationship develops, but this unity of Ryo, the element of water, and Yusaku, the element of fire, cannot last.

Remember those moments in elementary and highschool when you woke up late, panicked for 2 seconds, looked out the window to see a world blue from rain, sighed and went back to bed? That incomparable feeling of 9am in bed, in a warm blanket, in a colder world, while the pitterpatts serenade you back to sleep. The feeling I got from this movie is similar, the associated drowziness included.

The world of Mizu no onna is beautiful. Rain, earth tones, rustic settings, old houses, bath tiles, spring water, forests, chopped wood, furnaces… it seems like a place I’d want to live in, or at the very least visit. Yet at the same time, it seems empty, lonely. At the same time feeling right at home and lost in the same world.

It is difficult to talk about this movie, because it is built on imagery and atmosphere. These are two things that the film does excellently, with its depiction of UA’s rain and Asano’s fire. Their contrasting personalities and elements make for an interesting dynamic, one that is mostly subdued and silent.

This subtlety, indirectness, aloofness, abstractness, what have you, of the characters, of the film, of the camera, can just as easily alienate and disconnect the audience as it can draw them in. Eventually, there must be something more than representations and significations to create a lasting impression; a significance beyond impalpable interpretations. Yet because of the assured direction and unity of Hidenori’s vision, it’s obvious that this film has achieved its purpose, that of using pictures as an extension of his two characters. I have to say that Mizu no onna achieves this, and is one of the most innovative “purely visual” films I’ve seen, and yet I found myself uninterested for portions of its length. That is more a warning (for those who need a clear cut story) than criticism though.

On long road trips to nowhere, I always find myself stumbling upon the most beautiful places on Earth hidden in the most unassuming locations. I take a lot of pictures, explore, and take in as much as I can before eventually (and inevitably) moving on, sure to remember bits an pieces of the place as some of the most amazing I’ve ever seen. Yet that’s all I remember, bits and pieces. This film is very similar; there are moments of absolute beauty, but it is difficult to remember as a whole. The quality of the pictures and the music is undeniable, but its narrative struggles to compare. But narrative isn’t really the point of this movie; it is about what we see and how see it.

things to take note of
The images of water and fire

best moment
The water, the fire

why you should watch this
If you like amazing pictures and amazing music, and can stand the utterly boring plot
A very intriguing visual style in emphasizing water and fire

rating: 7.2

Plot: C
Cast: C+
Cinematography: A
Music: B+
Entertainment: C+

similar movies, maybe:
Not a clue