Outtakes: Hirokazu Koreeda

After Life  

Who is he?

Japanese screenwriter, film director, producer and editor who has made over 15 feature-length documentary and fictional films for the screen and television since the late eighties. Koreeda started as a documentarian making pictures for the television before segueing into fictional filmmaking. His most recent offering, Like Father, Like Son (2013), won the Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival last year.

What are his films about?


Both stylistically and thematically, Koreeda locates himself in the lineage of Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu. Like Ozu, Koreeda’s films largely deal with that most intimate of social structures: the family. The gaps between childhood and parenthood and the conflict between generations are commonplace elements. People in these films understand themselves only through their relationship with other characters. The role of cinema in preserving memory, the shared nature of the latter, the natural cycle of life and death are some of the most prominent ideas that Koreeda’s films treat.


The measured pace and the restrained approach to narrative of Koreeda’s films have invited comparison to the work of his Taiwanese peer Hou Hsiao-Hsien. Their debt, however, to Ozu’s contemplative cinema is too strong to ignore. The combination of long and medium shots, the keen observation of quotidian rituals and the sense of rhythm of life in a given place all have origins in the films of his predecessor. However, Koreeda is much more sentimental than Ozu and tempers the latter’s formal austerity with a touch of melodrama, albeit in good taste.

Why is he of interest?

Koreeda is often counted among the most important of current-day Japanese filmmakers whose movies embody the dynamics of Japan’s skewed demography. The moderate and apolitical (yet far from untroubled) middle-class life portrayed in his films might invite disapproval from more politically engaged viewers, but taken on their own terms, they have nuanced social truths to offer.

Where to discover him?

Like Father, Like Son works off a very familiar premise: two children are interchanged at birth at the hospital and the parents, who discover the switch, must decide on the course of action. Such a plot is typically reduced to a nature versus nurture debate and given easy solutions, here it is woven into a trenchant examination of the pitfalls of parenthood, in which coming to terms with one’s own fallibility and insecurity becomes a key aspect of raising one’s child.

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Printable version | Oct 15, 2021 7:21:49 AM |

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