Tuesday, 17 January 2017

On Kimi No Na Wa (Your Name)

Kimi No Na Wa is possibly the best film of 2016. Certainly, it was the film I most enjoyed this year. Also known as Your Name, is a love story, and a body-swapping adventure, and a time travelling coming of age story. But fundamentally, it’s a story about separation and connection.

I needn’t sing the praises of the film; many are doing that already. What interests me is how acutely real the whole premise is. Taki (male) and Mitsuha (female) swap bodies with each other when they go to sleep, living out a Freaky Friday-esque scenario, but through smartphones and notebooks (the paper kind) are able to leave messages for one another, and form a relationship.

What strikes me about the film, besides its quality, is that the apparently mystical happenings and interactions between the film’s protagonists describe, with a decent number of similarities, many online friendships.

Certainly the medium of communication used (text message, for the most part) is a parallel, but how about being able to actually experience the day to day activities of another person? With the advent of social media, we can ‘check in’ for breakfast, photograph and distribute our meal, tweet about the bus ride home and review the TV show we watch that evening.

I suggest if one were tenacious enough they could imitate someone else’s life to a reasonable extent merely by, in the digital sense, following them. When you think about it in this context, the follow button can look a little bit creepy.

Is this the intention of the film, to highlight online relationships? I don’t think so; I think the filmmakers just wanted to tell a good story. But they do acknowledge the similarities – Taki’s friend asks, as they travel to meet Mitsuha, whether she is an online friend.

Does this invalidate their relationship, or others? It’s not for me to comment on the substance of online relationships, only to say their presence in society is becoming ever more pronounced. If art is meant to be a mirror to society, well then, I think the film does this very well, whether it intended to or not. And, perhaps oddly, makes Taki and Mitsuha’s relationship seem all that more real.

Of course the internet has been used in a similar context before. The most prominent early example of online relationships in film I can think of is You’ve Got Mail, where emailing is use to create a somewhat comedic divide. Divide is the lifeblood of romance – look at Romeo and Juliet – and this is because a good love story cannot be good without some struggle and obstacle to overcome. In this regard, Your Name is no different.

But it’s struggle goes a step beyond the trope developed in You’ve Got Mail. The film doesn’t just present long distance and non-physical communication; it does it whilst removing the privacy of the computer screen, or, formally, the physical mail box. It shows a relationship where, at the earliest stages, one party may peer intimately into the life of the other, and vice versa.

This magical, time-travelling story is perhaps the most accurate depiction of 21st century love yet to be put on film. At the very least it is a scenario that is here to stay.

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