After graduating university, he entered the Japan Film School and found himself immersed with the fun of filmmaking. His graduation project As We Go Cheering Our Flaming Lives (2000) won the Japan Film School's Imamura Award, and also was recognised at the TAMA NEW WAVE Grand Prix. After graduating, he went on to become assistant film director and television director, and finally after six years he produced another film Rocket Punch (2006), which won seven awards, from Hiroshima and Fukui Grand Prix Film Festivals. In 2008, he was selected by the Culture Centre's Young Film Maker Project, and his film The Sparkling Amber (2008) shot on 35mm-film, received a high evaluation. In 2012, his full-length film Capturing Dad (2012), at the SKIP City International D Cinema Film Festival, won an award making him the first Japanese director to receive one, and beginning with the Berlin International Film Festival he received many invitations to Film Festivals around the globe and this film was globally receiving 14 awards. He is continuing to create the image of "family"; from his own viewpoint and sensibility.
With Eigasai 2017 opening film Her Love Boils Bathwater, Nakano gladly shared some thoughts about the film and his style as writer and director:
There was an attempt to tell the story using colours. Red, light blue, and black. Can you explain why you emphasised on this? I also observed that the colour palette was warm all throughout the film or in some short scenes, there would always be small light amidst the darkness. How does this style help you in bringing out your message to the audience?
We talked about the mother and child relationship and I wanted the audience to have an image of those two, mother is red and daughter is light blue. In a way those colours are explaining about the characters. Personally, I really liked the colour red. For me it is being passionate and that is perfect for the character of the mother: passionate, loving. So in the last scene, I envisioned it to have a red smoke coming out of the furnace. I’m always aware and conscious of the colours I use in that movie. Moreover, Futaba is like a light that embraces each one of them.
There was a line said by Futaba that struck me the most, “I don’t want to die." She said this after showing in almost 3/4s of the film that she has already accepted her imminent death.
For me that part, Futaba never showed weakness to others. She never showed to the people around her her real emotions. She was always thinking of other people’s feelings. And so when she was seeing her family doing the pyramid, that was the first time that she sort of realised “I’m gonna die and won’t be with these people anymore.” That was the moment where for the first time, she spoke honestly and showed her real thoughts and emotions and not thinking anymore of other people’s judgments. That’s why she uttered those words. That was the moment where she was real. She was honest and was really herself.
In the beginning when the doctor told her of her condition, she cried but was hiding in the bathouse. But other than that she did not cry about her condition until that scene in the hospital. For me, I wanted to make sure that she shows her selflessness and then her weakness.
The line, “I don’t want to die” was written in the screenplay. But the other thing Miyazawa Rie (the one who portrayed Futaba) said, “I want to live. I want to live.” That part wasn’t in the script but Miyazawa was really in character and said it from within. She was being Futaba in that exact moment.
Speaking of that, how do you deal with your actors? Futaba has a lot of secrets that’s why if you watch the film for the first time, you would notice how she moves and reacts when she throws some of her lines. If you watch it again, you would then realize why she was acting like that. Do you tell them directly, “this is what she has in mind”, “this is how she should feel”, etc.
In terms of my directing style, it has been the same ever since. I have not changed the style of directing.
I wrote the screenplay and I’m a very detailed writer. Of course, there’s no actual direction there on what exactly they have to do but if the actors read the script, I write it in a way that they would understand how they should be feeling or thinking.
For the actors, I believe that it’s their job to be able to interpret what is written and then show it through their actions and the way they execute their lines. I don’t think that as a director, it would not be fun for me if I dictate them what to do. “Here’s the script, show me what you’ve got.”
Of course in exchange, what I do as a director, I do my best to create that environment to help them have that relationship that should reflect in the film. Because I would not think that they come on the first day of shooting and I say “act like a family” they would be able to immediately, before we start the shooting I would make them message each other via text everyday as their characters. So that when they come to work, they have established already whatever relationship they supposed to have.
Can you cite one or two major challenges that you’ve faced in filming “Her Love Boils Bathwater”?
If you remember the daughter of the detective that they hired, she is really free as a child. She would do whatever she wanted but I liked it because it was authentic. During the auditions, she was also like that—she couldn’t stand or stay still for a brief moment—but I chose her for that. But everybody around me were against it because they were telling me that I would have such a hard time with the kid. And they were right (laughs). I had a hard time, yes. But she could give me something that no other child actor could give. I was able to capture real child-like reactions and that was a gem.
It was difficult but very fun to have directed that child actor. A similar happy-but-difficult thing with this film, was that we always end up crying especially me. You would see the viewfinders of our cameras filled with tears.
Another one is my breathing through nose becomes very rough when I’m excited with the scene. I didn’t notice that at first until they told me, especially the when the sound guy already complained about it because he catches it up in the audio. But for me, it’s like an indicator that I’m taking an amazing scene.
There was also a scene where the younger daughter, Ayuko, was asking if she could stay there in the house. It was a good scene and so I said “cut!” then Miyazawa (who played Futaba), she said “what was that!”. I was wondering what she was talking about and then the guy beside me said, “it’s your heavy breathing.”
What for you are the essentials in making a compelling short or full-length film?
What I am very careful about is can the characters be seen by the audience. It’s easy to show like “this is a family” or “they are siblings”, but it’s different when the audience can actually see that they are siblings. They are not actors acting like siblings but they draw the audience for them to see that they are actually related. And so what I do, I prepare my actors before the shooting in establishing their relationships towards one another.
So in that ending scene, we needed the audience to see that she is really dying. So Miyazawa and I really discussed how the scene should be and we both agreed that it’s not just to show that she’s ill. So she asked for some time to lose weight for that parts. That’s how committed she was to be really seen as the character.
What is your view of the Japanese cinema today? And with your body of work, what is your aim as a filmmaker for the industry’s progress?
The Japanese cinema personally is not in a good situation right now. The movies are very domesticated, it’s for the Japanese people to appreciate. They don’t make their movies for the foreign audience. The movies that are highly budgeted are all focused on that market. I feel that they are not looking towards other potential audience.
I want to change that. But as I mentioned at the opening of Eigasai 2017, movies has no borders. I like my movies to be not domestically focused. But I’m not saying that we shouldn’t make movies about Japan, because Japan has great culture and its people has humanity and I want that to show and be appreciated by the people outside Japan. I believe that we can make good movies where our culture is still depicted but then have it designed for international audience.
How was the Eigasai helpful in boosting Japanese cinema?
With these kinds of festivals, I feel that Japanese culture is introduced to foreigners and I think that’s a very good thing. Personally as a filmmaker, to see how my movie is accepted by an international audience. By experiencing that, I’d be able to tweak my stories according to their taste. Being here is a great experience for me because in the future I would be able to make a better movie that would really be good for foreign audience.
I feel that this year’s lineup is a well balanced selection. There are some that are domestic and there are some that might be appealing to international audience. Also, some of the directors are people I personally know.
Don’t limit yourself to the domestic market or theme. Widen your audience. Widen your themes. Think outside of your country because there’s an audience out there.