Figures in the Earth

A little girl watches her grandmother walk off into the distance, returning home to die in the town where she grew up. As the silhouette of the old woman disappears behind the crown of a road, it’s as if the sky has swallowed her up.

Maborosi is filled with such images. Still haunted by dreams of her grandmother’s departure, Yumiko (played by Makiko Esumi) moves to a small seaside community where she tries to rebuild her life, filled with doubt after the death of her husband. Close ups become less frequent, profiles form half moons of light in rooms steeped in darkness and figures become insignificant specks against the coastal landscape.
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Wide angle shots define a new emotional space for Yumiko’s world. Gone is the intimacy of a cramped apartment, the neighbor’s radio blaring through thin walls. Children at play become lost in a snowy hillside’s spotted hide and race across an inverted sky. They emerge from a drainage tunnel into a blotch of light that looks abstract and unnatural.
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The scenes tantalize at meaning inherent in the imposing nature of the coast that somehow reflects the inner anguish of Yumiko’s search for answers. “…The sea is awesome,” she observes at one point. “Perhaps too much so,” her companion replies.
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