The Japanese have a unique relationship with spirituality, death and nature. In a society grounded in ritual and traditions, a mortal’s passing to the other side is shrouded is mysticism and lore. Even in Aokigahara, also known as Suicide Forest, there’s an oddly regimented and ceremonial way of ending your life. In The Mourning Forest, director Naomi Kawase focusses on the period of mourning following a funeral.
Working as a nurse in a care home, Machiko (Machiko Ono) is still trying to come to terms with the death of her young son. She forms an attachment with Shigeki (Shigeki Uda), an elderly widower who resides there. Their relationship in strained, but shortly after celebrating his birthday Machiko decides to take him for a drive in the countryside. When they break down, Shigeki flees into the woods; bringing them together in unexpected ways.
The Mourning Forest is a very slow film. However, your patience will be rewarded. Whilst it feels like nothing much is really happening, pieces suddenly fall into place towards the end; to powerful effect. Whilst it’s not up there with Kawase’s best work (Shara, Sweat Bean) it’s a thoughtful and heart-warming meditation on inter-generational relationships. She won a Grand Prix at Cannes and The Mourning Forest still retains its emotional power.
The Mourning Forest is released on dual format (Blu-ray & DVD) by Eureka Entertainment as part of the Masters of Cinema Series on Monday 21 August.