August 1, 2020

33 years of the Hachiko monogatari

On August 1, 1987, the movie "Hachikô monogatari ハチ公物語 (Hachi-ko)" by Seijiro Koyama was released on Japanese cinema screens. And the author of the script for this film was the legendary Kaneto Shindo, a multiple winner and nominee of various film festivals around the world.

Having appeared on the screens of Japan, it has not been shown in any country for a long time. And this is more than strange. The film became the box office leader in Japan, raising about $ 14 million. That is, the commercial potential was very high. Only 15 years later, the film got out of the borders of Japan and reached the cinemas of its closest neighbor - South Korea. But only this country.

After a few years, everything became clear. Namely, in 2009, American film “Hachi: A Dog's Tale” by Lasse Hallstrom was released on the screens of almost the whole world. The plot of the film almost coincided with the plot of the Japanese film "Hachikô monogatari ハチ公物語 (Hachi-ko)", but the film's set was moved in time and space - to modern America. But in the credits for the film, as the author of the script Stephen Lindsay was indicated. And only he is one. True, in the final credits it was indicated (in small print, which banks usually prescribe in the loan agreements the most essential conditions), that the film is based on the film "Hachikô monogatari ハチ公物語".

And more: on May 19, 2012, a bronze statue of the Hachiko dog was erected at the Wunsocket, Rhode Island carriage depot where they filmed “Hachi: A Dog's Tale”. And the railway depot itself was renamed from One Depot to Hachiko Place. So, I dare to suggest that in 15-20 years the Americans, and after them Europeans and others will be sure that the history of Hachiko happened precisely in the USA. Well, that is, in about the same way they are sure that the USA won the victory in World War II exclusively. Well, perhaps, with the support of the UK.

Naturally, in this situation, we were interested in comparing the estimates of the Japanese original and the American remake.

First of all, as usually, about an assessment by professional filmmakers. The Japanese film received recognition only at Japanese film festivals, which is understandable: if this film was not released on the screens of cinemas abroad, then it was not allowed to participate in international film festivals. True, in 1988 the film was awarded an award from the United States Animal Welfare Society. But the American film, for which all the ways were open, was not nominated even for participation in American festivals.

The next - the evaluation of film critics. The Japanese film received several positive reviews from observers in Asian and European publications. American and Soviet film critics passed the film in silence, which is not surprising: the film was not shown until 2002, except in Japan.

The American remake, shown everywhere, oddly enough, by the most authoritative American film critics also turned out to be silent. But on the other hand, curiously, the list of professional film critics' reviews of the American remake on the IMDB website begins with two Russian reviews. Although usually, the first on this list are reviews of the guru of American film critic Roger Ebert. But the guru passed over this film in silence. But this list contains as many as 5 reviews from Russian film critics. Although usually there is one or two maximum, and even then not always.

But among these 5 reviews there was no room for a review from the most famous Russian film critic - Sergei Kudryavtsev. However, this can be fully explained by the fact that Kudryavtsev did not give assessment on the American remake exclusively, but made a comparative review, that is, compared the Japanese and American versions. “The Japanese version of the events set out in the script of the illustrious patriarch Kaneto Shindo recalls a documented story in which the authors try to stay outside observers as much as possible, not trying to embellish, smooth, or emotionally enhance something in order to influence the audience. This is especially striking when comparing with the American version, which is just not without a share of speculativeness and generally manipulation in presenting this case in a more favorable light (as concerns, first of all, the exaggeratedly caring behavior of different people in relation to a dog left without a master - in fact, no one wanted to take it to him, including the immediate family of the deceased). The Americans turned out to be a “politically correct monument” to the dog on the screen, not accidentally ending with a frame with a real statue of Hachiko at the Shibuya station in Japan. But the Japanese nevertheless kept the merciless truth of life, completing the movie, albeit on a bitter note, but without excessive sentiment. ”

As for the ratings of ordinary moviegoers, judging by the data of IMDB and Kinopoisk, the American version is rated slightly higher than the Japanese. Moreover, this excess was provided by none other than the Russian cinema audience. While the Americans rated these two films roughly the same, the Japanese naturally preferred their own version, while the Russians rated Hallstrom's creation an order of magnitude higher. As for the ratings of ordinary moviegoers, the reviews on the Japanese film on IMDB are entirely positive, marking the high artistic level of the film. Reviews on the American remake, both on IMDB and on Kinopoisk, can be divided into two approximately equal groups. In the first group there are rave reviews, moreover, the main reason for the delight is the liters of tears shed during viewing. The second group is made up of reviews that, to put it mildly, are skeptical about the main “virtue” of the film - all the same liters of shed tears.

On Kinopoisk, you can find reviews of ordinary moviegoers, which also contain a comparative assessment of the Japanese original and the American remake. In the overwhelming majority of cases, such comparative reviews contain admiration for the emotionality, colorfulness, and catchy music characteristic of Hallström's film, and, on the contrary, reproaches for the fading and lack of emotion in Koyama's film. And, which is typical, all the authors of these reviews report that they first watched the American remake, and only then the Japanese original. That is, the trick of the American film distributors, preventing the timely appearance of the Japanese film on international screens, worked. And you say: "free market", "free competition".

I would like to give my own explanation for the above-mentioned difference in the level of emotionality of the two films, noted in the reviews of Kinopoisk users.

Firstly, the Japanese film is based on a REAL story that took place in Japan in 1926-1935, and it reflects the images of REAL people with their REAL feelings. In an American film, originally divorced from reality, everything, including music and video, is aimed at causing tears in the viewer.

Secondly, the Japanese film is devoted to fidelity. In this case, dog loyalty to man. Fidelity in Japanese society is revered both as a virtue and as an ordinary, normal, obligatory property of a person. This explains the lack of excessive exaltation. Well, the fact that fidelity in the American film, even doggy, is seen as a miracle, says a lot about the American character.

And, finally, a comparison of these two films brings to mind the famous aphorism of Heinrich Heine: “It is customary to glorify a playwright who knows how to extract tears. The most miserable onion also possesses this talent. With it this playwright shares his fame.”

73% of IMDB and Kinopoisk users around the world gave "Hachikô monogatari ハチ公物語 (Hachi-ko)" by Seijiro Koyama ratings from 8 to 10. Taking this into account and the above, FilmGourmand's rating of Hachikô monogatari was 8.129, making it 561st place in the Golden Thousand.