THE EARTH ASLEEP | FILM REVIEW
Dir: Clara Casian (unrated, 80 min)
Ten years ago, the Tohoku earthquake – one of the most powerful ever recorded – happened 18 miles outside the Oshika Peninsula of Japan. This disaster, and the tsunami it trigged, caused over 20,000 deaths and made hundreds of thousands of people homeless. The people who experienced those tragic events saw whole communities washed away and generations wiped out.
The Earth Asleep was created to capture these stories and show the true human cost of events. The film consists of a series of vignettes, rolling news segments, and citizen reporting, segments which skilfully utilise traditional documentary formats: intimate interviews, aerial footage, and minimal editing to create a strong narrative. As a viewer unfamiliar with events, having the story told through different perspectives create an intimate yet powerful picture that underscores the scope of the disaster. The film’s accompanying soundtrack, by Robin Richards of Manchester band Dutch Uncles, is hypnotic and haunting. Echoes of flowing water and percussion instruments juxtapose to the sometimes-chaotic scenes on screen. Painting its own story of life in rural Japan, it acts as a non-intrusive grounding for the audience. This grounding is further emphasised by the intermittent use of archive portraits: randomly chosen from the Witness Of Life Project, a Japanese photography book, these photos act as symbols representing the thousands of people who lost their lives.
At times, this film is a difficult watch. Close camera angles and sparse dialogue amplify the raw emotion and grief of the situation. But in some ways, this is what makes the film so special, along with artful direction and thoughtful composition. Thanks to the contemporary news cycle, the Tohoku earthquake arguably feels like an event of a past era, yet remains an important story to tell. The Earth Asleep tells it masterfully.
Out now via BFI Player. Info: here
words ELOUISE HOBBS