If you’re born in the UK, it’s easy to have the mistaken belief that class plays a much greater part in our society than anywhere else. Whilst this might once have been the case, it’s a huge factor in determining socio-economic success in most places around the world, one way or another. Japan, like many countries, had an intrinsic re-arrangement of society following World War II. However, that doesn’t mean it’s some kind of meritocracy, as Aristocrats illustrates so deftly.
Born in Tokyo into wealth, Hanako (Mugi Kadowaki) has never really had to think about how her life would play out. However, at the age of 27 she’s suddenly dumped by her fiancé and finds herself pressurised by her family to find a husband. Mika (Kiko Mizuhara) grew up in a small town, moving to the capital in order to give herself a chance of a future; working hard for everything she got. When Hanako find a prospective partner, who happens to be Mika’s best friend, they bond over their differences and similarities.
Aristocrats is an expertly measured drama about class and gender in a society which is nowhere near as progressive as it may like to think. The trick with Yukiko Sode’s film is the restraint. Every shot is calculated. Every gesture. There’s an exactness which is thrilling. While their backgrounds are very different, both women find an affinity in each other and their experiences in a patriarchal society. Aristocrats is a quiet and thoughtful look at contemporary Japan.
Aristocrats screens at International Film Festival Rotterdam.