Guest Blog | A Love Letter to Five Centimetres Per Second | Imogen Smiley
Another great piece for you written by one of our listeners. This one is full of love and adoration for the Japanese film, Five Centimetres Per Second. It was written by Imogen Smiley.
“Hey… They say it’s five centimetres per second.”
“What do you mean?”
“The speed at which the cherry blossom petals fall… Five centimetres per second.”
It was always said, that favourite films, favourite songs etc. can tell people a lot more about a person than conversation. I believe that watching this particular film would tell anyone more about me than I would care to mention.
The first time I watched Five Centimetres Per Second (2007), I was nineteen years old, bored rigid without Wi-Fi in my student house for the second week and I’d bought it second-hand from a charity shop, elated with the find. I had heard of Makoto Shinkai and his work before, but was yet to see work he was credited to. I only knew about his content because of the commercial success of his later project Your Name (2016). I never expected this film to be so emotive.
It opens with context; a young Takaki telling the audience about Akari and how their lives became connected, both being new to the area, with similar interests. You watch them act as children do, playing together, chasing one another, until they are faced by a lowering train barrier. Akari passes through the barriers, but Takaki is left to wait for the train to pass. It’s a beautiful montage, showing the pair race to one another once the barriers are lifted.
From the minute I heard the first lines of dialogue, I knew this film was bound to be beautiful. I fell in love with the childlike quality of the motion. There was a youthful curiosity present within the characters and their experiences. Each one of the three stories was invaluable insight to the highs and lows of growing up. I adored how the first story, which depicted Takaki and Akari in childhood, contained vibrant springtime colours and excited movements, where nothing mattered more to the characters than what was straight ahead. It was a beautiful depiction of how vibrant youth is. Takaki and Akari did not concern themselves too much with the future, instead existing solely in the moment; a relentless optimism existing that they would remain connected despite however many miles kept them apart. Hope was present in the dialogue constantly during this story, and is carefully ebbed out as Takaki grows up.
Each of the three short stories shows a different element of growing up, following a young Takaki as he faces the world. When the first story looks at young love, reciprocated feelings and a series of firsts, the second looks at being a teenager, being aware of the likelihood of being rejected and existing in fear of your feelings being unrequited. Watching Kanai love Takaki so intensely, knowing that he sees her as nothing more than a friend is emotional. An easy enough experience to relate to, where you know that you could ruin a relationship by confessing romantic feelings, and fearing the consequences. Kanai is a character you root for even though it’s clear from the beginning that her attempts will be futile. Her story is dreamy, warm, filled with longing for a life she wonders whether she can become part of.
The third story is much grittier; realer, and provides you with the swift reality check that as much as you were rooting for Kanai, as soon as you hear Akari speak, you are desperate to find out whether she and Takaki were reunited; whether they’re back together, because despite what you know about relationships, you want them to have managed it. You forget about Kanai and her unrequited feelings, you just want to see Takaki and Akari happy.
I believe that one of the immense strengths was how the beginning and ending sequences mirrored each other. It was a masterful manipulation to show the passage of time. The steep hills that they used to race down are now the routes for a leisurely walk, there is no haste in Takaki’s step. The only time he is faced with urgency is in that fleeting moment when he and Akari were reunited; walking across the train tracks toward his destination, crossing paths for just a moment. It was clever, and beautiful.
Then there’s the score – the ending song, One More Time One More Chance is such a beautiful and easy listen; a song which is easy to hear, and with or without the translated lyrics at the foot of the screen, I still got a semblance of the meaning behind the words. The tune emanates an air of nostalgia and yearning which makes it hard to forget the ending that such a hopeful film was just dealt. A dreamy “what if” motif running through to remind us of how much the audience, like Takaki, wanted things to end differently.
I remember watching it for the first time, and how my nineteen-year-old self stared at the rolling credits, dumbfounded by how real that moment was. I wish I could go back and re-watch it for the first time; being so invested in this love story was stunning, you don’t realise how much you want things to work out until things fail to come to fruition each time.
I cannot wait to get a chance to watch this film again. Each time I see it, I find myself welling up. The entire composition of the entire film is fantastic.
Five Centimetres Per Second (2007) is available to purchase on Amazon. I would wholeheartedly recommend watching it.
Originally published on Tumblr on 30th March 2020