Set in Tokyo seven years after the end of WWII, this surreal story revolves around the dreams and realities of a young boy who strays into a strange mansion while out chasing fliers dropped by a small aeroplane.
Confined inside are four adults suffering from an incurable disease ('porphyria', which the author avoids specifying by name in the screenplay) which prevents them from having exposure to the sun.
The four are: Hizume, a man, born with hoofs instead of hands, who was a freak-show calligrapher writing with a brush held in his mouth; Nean, a former prostitute who still suffers from an attempted dual suicide with her lover; Maria who cannot hear, speak or walk and whose age no one knows; and Kakera, a woman who has just strangled herself the morning of the day the boy drifts into the mansion. The four, or three now, have been anxious to die, waiting for the day when the government orders their "gas release".
Guarding them is Hinomaru, a former kamikaze pilot who failed to die in the war and who, like his "prisoners", longs to end his life, out of a torment of guilt for surviving his fellow pilots and profound sorrow for their deaths.
The day after the boy's encounter with these death-wishers, the gas release order is issued at last. Their rejoicing is short-lived, however, as the order is conditional on the presence of five living persons being confirmed before gas is released. With Kakera already dead and her body dumped by Hinomaru into the tunnel leading from the mansion to nowhere, there are only four still living. Rumour has it that the tunnel leads all the way to Sanya, which was, and still is today, a sort of skid row populated by day labourers, migrant workers, bums and others who absorb the ups and downs of the larger economy. The four must go look for Kakera's body in the tunnel to meet the precondition for the gassing. To be able to die, the four begin a final, life-filled stretch of their lives.
Vermilion Souls is a film about the 'skill of life that dares to live death', the underlying concept of Butoh since its inception 50 years ago. Through this drama Iwana shows that life becomes true only when one is conscious of death in life. More specifically, the story expresses the real aspects of life such as hopeful prayers and existential curses, form and soul, and inanimate objects and human beings, through images of water and other substances.
(Note: Butoh here is defined as modern butoh that was created in Japan towards the end of the 1950s by such artists as 土方巽 Tatsumi Hijikata and 大野一雄 Kazuo Ohno. Butoh has become increasingly popular in Europe and the United States beginning in the 1980s.)
The cast includes some renowned butoh dancers with distinctive styles from both Japan and Europe, who will add a new dramatic element more through their personal presence as butoh dancers than as actors per se.
Principal photography was realized on July 15, 2004 at Iwana's own home in southern Normandy, to have been followed by location shooting on the Bretagne coast. Then for four weeks in August, some 80 percent of the principal photography took place at and around Iwana's Normandy studio. Another week of shooting in Japan in the autumn of 2004 completed the seven weeks of photography.
An independent film, Vermilion Souls has been produced by TVE (Television Trust for the Environment) led by Syukichi Koizumi based in Tokyo, Masaki Iwana's Butoh Research Institute La Maison du Butoh Blanc based in France and the 文化庁 Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan.
First of all, I have the impression that the life of a human being is nothingness.
But on the other hand, if a human being could possibly attack one's own condition of "being" (this condition is a negation to nothingness, 'a handicap' to nothingness which is perfectly complete in its non-existence) — if Life can attack Existence — then this is an act of great assertion of emptiness — in another words, "the intensity of nothingness".
Through Maria, a character of four-fold handicap/suffering, we show the "intensity of hate", which is equivalent in value to "mercy". Through the miracle of Hizume's club-hands opening, we show "blessing", which is equal value to "misery". By these two manifestations, the film describes the great assertion of emptiness.
I would like to have an occasion to reconsider "being alive", and to explore "life" through the fact of the necessity of death, through the despair towards unavoidability of death, through the desire to die, and through the state of the corpse which has become an object without life.
As a method of filmic realization, we create an illusion (dream), not only in the illusory scenes but also in the narrative (real) scenes, by the presence of different races of actors, the crossing of different languages, the incarnation of character.
Moreover by inserting six dance scenes, we disturb the flow of fiction (fiction, being something that has already been pre-constructed in the past) and express the "now" of the actors in their present lives.
– translated by Moeno Wakamatsu
Tout d'abord, j'ai l'impression que la vie de l'être humain n'est rien.
Mais d'un autre coté, si l'être humain est capable de s'attaquer si peu que ce soit à l' "être" (le "rien" est totalement parfait, puisqu'il n'y a rien, tandis que l' "être" est une "infirmité" en quelque sorte dans le sens d'une négation du "rien"), je pense que ce serait une forte affirmation du néant, autrement dit de l'intensité du néant.
Ce film décrira une forte affirmation du néant en montrant une "force d'animosité" équivalente à la "charité" à travers le personnage de Maria qui est une quadruple handicapée et en montrant par l'ouverture des mains botes d'Hizumé une "félicité" équivalente à sa "misère".
Je voudrais avoir une occasion de reconsidérer "vivre" et ce qu'est la "vie" à travers la mort inéluctable, la désespérance de la mort inévitable, le désir de mourir et le cadavre comme objet sans vie, etc …
A cette effet, non seulement dans la scène fantasmatique mais aussi dans la scène narrative (réel), une sorte d'illusion (rêve) sera créée par la présence des différentes races d'acteurs, le croisement des différentes langues, la réincarnation etc …
Par ailleurs les six scènes de danse seront insérées. Elles représentent le "présent" des acteurs en dehors du déroulement de la fiction (le "passé" en ce sens que la fiction est quelque chose qui a été déjà écrit).
– traduit par Mari OHASHI
"Vermilion Souls est peut être un exemple de plus, s'il en était besoin, de montrer la capacité japonaise à integrer, dans sa japonite sans faille, les elements des autres cultures et de les manger, de les boire, de les voir, de les gouter? de les faire siens et de les montrer, comme si l'âme japonaise pouvait parvenir à quelque chose de plus particulierement universel que celle des autres peuples, par sa proximité directe avec la nature, l'histoire, le sexe, la mort… et le conte, source de toute histoire humaine exemplaire".
"Vermilion Souls in exquisite magical light of this black & white film, creates a metaphoric setting of a labyrinth house reached only by a ladder and catacombs that open to a windswept seashore, where the living dying long for home of nothingness that is all, a case for life as death, and death as life, heaven suspended. The surreal real for me. Thank you Masaki."
– Celeste Hastings (USA/dancer)
"Vermilion Souls m'a plongée dans l'espace-temps de la mort imminente. L'atmosphère visuelle et sonore, le confinement, la crudité des corps-objets, les traces de guerre, le lien a l'enfance composent ce voyage initiatique. Un film singulier porte par des acteurs – danseurs saisissants ou chaque element de lecture filmique participe à la création d'un universalité obscure Masaki Iwana."
– Angela Laurier (artiste de cirque, danseuse Compagnie Francois Verret)
The year 2002 began tragically with my former wife's death. She strangled herself in Tokyo ten days after I left Japan for France on January 15 and before she received a postcard with a picture of a donkey that I had sent her from Athens. One consolation was that I was able to stay with her constantly for the two months after her fatal illness was first diagnosed the previous November while I was visiting Japan. I had never spent so much time with her since we were divorced thirteen years ago. While we were married, she always encouraged and supported me when I lacked confidence in my performances. Nevertheless I left her from a selfish desire to be alone and always treated her as a friend without explaining myself clearly. Her death seemed to me to be a silent protest against me.
Although I was in shock and lost, two months passed quietly after her death. Having been unable to be with her until the end, I planted a maple tree in the yard of my house in Normandy, with a wish that I would now always watch her and she me through this living tree. One night around then, or more accurately on the night of March 19, I was writing memorial poems on my personal computer. These were not in the formal tanka style; I simply wrote down my random thoughts and memories of my former wife. I had created over fifteen "poems" in no time at all, when I suddenly began crying uncontrollably. I probably let myself act this way because I was in my house in the middle of nowhere. While crying, I was surprised at the amount of tears one's body can produce. I cried until my face became distorted. It lasted, I think, for forty, fifty minutes.
Several days later I began thinking about the meaning of my tears. The sorrow of parting, regrets, apologies, self-reproach… It was perhaps all of these. One thing was clear, however: that I was never going to see her again. In other words, she had gone to the side of death, which I had always somehow avoided facing, although death is always the immediate neighbour of life. By dying, she had become a material entity. This individual material entity would eventually perish and be absorbed into a vaster material entity. That is what dying means. I had not realised this when my beloved father died twenty years ago.
Strangely, after this realisation I was suddenly able to complete the screenplay for Vermilion Souls, which I had left in the shape of rough ideas for a year or so, in a matter of fortnight. I do not know where this concentration came from, but I kept on writing anywhere and everywhere. I was so absorbed in writing the screenplay that, when I was on the train from Rome for Ancona toward the end of March, I almost missed getting off it at my destination; I had to literally throw myself out on the platform, along with my socks, shoes, backpack and the manuscript.
Set in Tokyo in 1952, Vermilion Souls is a story of the dreams and realities encountered by a young boy who strays into a strange mansion while out chasing a flier dropped by an aircraft. Confined in the mansion are four adults suffering from an incurable disease which prevents them from being exposed to the sun.
The four are: Hizume (hoof in Japanese), a man, born with hoofs instead of hands, who was a freak-show calligrapher writing with a brush held in his mouth; Nean (from the French word neant meaning "nothingness", or the Japanese word nehan meaning "Nirvana"), a whore who still suffers from an attempted double-suicide with her lover; Maria who cannot hear, speak or walk and whose age no one knows; and Kakera (fragment in Japanese), a woman who has just strangled herself the morning of the day the boy drifts into the mansion. The four – or three when the boy arrives – have been anxious to die, waiting for the day when the government orders their "gas release".
Guarding them is Hinomaru (Rising Sun flag), a former kamikaze pilot who failed to die in the war and who, like his "prisoners", longs to end his life, tormented by guilt for surviving his fellow pilots and out of a profound sorrow for their deaths.
The day after the boy's encounter with these death-wishers, the gas release order is finally issued. Their rejoicing is short-lived, however, as the order is conditional on the presence of five living persons being confirmed before gas is released. Hinomaru poses as Masukiyo who died from exposure to the sun when he tried to escape the mansion the previous winter.
But even if he successfully pulls this off, there are only four still living, with Kakera already dead and her body dumped by Hinomaru himself into the tunnel leading from the mansion to nowhere.
Rumour has it that the tunnel leads to Nihonzutsumi (a.k.a. Sanya, which was, and still is today, a sort of skid row populated by day labourers, migrant workers, bums and others who absorb the ups and downs of the larger economy. Those who cannot afford the doss houses in the area sleep rough throughout all seasons). The four must go look for Kakera's body down the tunnel to meet the condition for the gassing. To be able to die, the four begin a final, life-filled stretch of their lives.
The first character I came up with for my story was the young man with the alias Hinomaru, who failed to die as a kamikaze pilot. I think that I projected my thoughts of my former wife on him. When those who do not need to die do die, the bereaved wish to make up for the unfair loss by dying themselves. If they nevertheless have to live on, the only thing they can do is to live with abandon, not fearing death. Hinomaru is one such man.
In November when I finally completed the fifth, and hopefully final, draft of the screenplay, I happened to see The Gate of Flesh directed by Seijun Suzuki at a showing of his work organised in Paris. Set in Shimbashi, Tokyo, at the height of post-war confusion, The Gate of Flesh, based on a highly acclaimed novel of the same title, is a story about interaction between young prostitutes and a young demobilised soldier and their struggles to live. I had already seen this film twice before and not been particularly impressed, but this time I was moved by two important aspects of it (such surprises often happens with movies). One was a discovery, or confirmation, that 1952, the year I chose to set my own story in, was one of those priceless several years for Japan. It may be partly because childhood memories are idealised like a "gem" as often said, but it is a fact that, as I remember, the skies, the sunsets, people's laughter and their general robustness that I witnessed in Tokyo when I was seven, in the seventh year since the end of WWII, were so full of life – it was as if Japan was a "treasure-house of life". One can no longer see those skies or those faces there any more.
Another was the scene in which actor Jo Shishido cries at a whore's room, covering his head with a Rising Sun flag bearing his fellow soldiers' last or dying words. I had thought this scene might make me cry, and sure enough, I was in profuse tears. The character in this scene was a virtual duplicate of my Hinomaru.
Hinomaru, however, is much more. In my story he plays a key role in snatching the opportunity to die from the government administrator of death, who tries to provide it as part of rules of the institution, and placing it in the hands of the ones who are dying – a crucial element of the drama.
While Hinomaru is the character who expresses remorse when faced with The Other's death, Kakera who strangled herself and Masukiyo who escaped to "burn" himself to death by sunlight are two characters that represent the positive will of the dying. Yet, self-strangulation behind closed doors and escaping one's confinement to immolate oneself have different meanings. Although the former is voluntary, it is the result of a secret decision; in comparison, the latter is a provocative, challenging act of self-destruction. The latter deals a sharp blow at the institution (we must not forget that the institution does not only mean state or society; it exists within each individual). Yet, again, both share one thing in common: that, as material entities, they relentlessly thrust the existence of death before those who are alive.
I should add that, although Kakera's suicide in the story may seem to reflect my former wife's death, years ago I wrote Sanctuary, a series of three-part butoh scenarios, in which the first part, Figures de Femmes (Wominanite), dealt with a woman who strangles herself at its outset. By the way, the series' second part, Look Over the Sky, described a character who escapes the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, like Masukiyo escapes the mansion in Vermilion Souls. In any event, regardless of whether it is good or bad or whether out of one's will or impulse, killing oneself is a "form of life" in that one at least achieves, in one's mind, life's transition to death by voluntarily choosing to die. All of us who choose to be half-blind to death in our daily lives must re-recognise this fact.
Meanwhile, Nean and Hizume, though entirely different from one another in personality and past, are both ordinary people, lacking the strength to kill themselves. In that sense they are closer to most of us in terms of their attitude to death.
The common attitude to death shared by most of us, I believe, is to live everyday while turning a blind eye to the reality that death follows life and hoping to somehow manage to die eventually in the most painless manner possible. The most typical of such deaths would be euthanasia or debilitation leading to death. While these are very fortunate deaths in a way, they pose a problem, i.e., the dying person's inability to witness and experience his or her own life's transition into a material entity.
The fact that, not just the dying person and those around him or her, but an institution such as a state or society also shares the same desire to avoid recognising death allows the institution to gain an excuse and right to intervene in death. The institution that administers death may very well get to administer life and living.
This is actually a very difficult argument to make. Some may ask what is wrong with people living while ignoring death? Aware of the difficulty, I still cannot evade this issue. The reason is that I believe that to have a firm recognition of death within oneself requires involving death in one's life, and that I have a "premonition" that by involving death in one's life, life will become entirely different. Put another way, I feel that to involve death in one's life means, not a revolution on the level of social revolutions, but a true revolution of oneself.
While drifting from drama to dance to film for the past thirty-three years, I have consistently pondered about death within life and life premised on death. Hinomaru's speech lines at the beginning of this film, as he chases the young boy chasing a flier, are from Dressed in Water, a memo I wrote for myself in 1987 for my own dancing. Toward the end it refers to "the skill of life that dares to live death". To me this is a skill for dancing and at the same time a skill for living.
Incidentally, after this film is produced if I still have enough strength, I would definitely like to write my own Who's Who of Revolutionaries as my last written work. It will most likely not include Marx, Lenin or Mao, because to me revolution means to "change life" as the characters of the word in Japanese indicate and the true revolutionaries are those relatively nameless persons who made outstanding efforts to this end. I should add that the reasons why they are nameless is that institutions have always operated in such ways that reject them and then those same institutions make the so-called history and culture. I remember talking to someone who called himself an author a decade or so ago. He simply sneered when I said that the world would never change unless one's "body" changed. I admit that I did not explain myself fully, but by a changed "body" I meant a "person who lives in life with death as his neighbour".
In any event, Nean and Hizume typify the attitude to death, therefore life, of most of us. But what is important is that in my story their attitude to death and life gradually changes in the course of events and casual exchange of words with the boy until, led by Hinomaru as I said earlier, they grab control of their own deaths.
Finally, I should discuss the Maria character. Among all my characters, Maria is perhaps the only one who knows the meaning of death that is always extant in life, which means that Maria is more of a representation of my concept than a character of my story. In other words, Maria is an existence that, with her "immortality", constantly thrusts death in life at society that keeps death shut out, as well as our institutional attitude to death.
I have a feeling that my inspiration for the immortal Maria probably came from the old apple tree that has stood dead for years in my yard in Normandy. Nothing can be more fearsome and alarming than those who keep standing even after death. Throughout history there have been many in lore who kept standing after death, including Musashibo Benkei, a 12th century Buddhist monk who, serving warlord Yoshitsune of Minamoto, was killed in the battle of the Koromo River. Every time I read about their after-death standing, I am moved and awe-struck.
Two Marias appear in my story: the triple-handicapped Maria confined in the mansion who cannot walk, hear or talk; and the Maria with none of the handicaps who emerges in the boy's illusion (or is it an illusion?). The former, Virgin Mary-like Maria as perceived by Hizume and his fellow residents of the mansion belongs to this secular world. The other, entirely separate Maria, who is the "magma of existence", a total existence beyond morals, the good or evil or the beautiful or ugly, is the entirety of Maria. Her role is not to provide standards for judgements or values; rather, she exists to cut open and indicate all origins and elements of the universe.
Accordingly, Kyrie Eleison, the figure of Virgin Mary and the church bells in this film are meant to imply, not Christianity, but, to quite the contrary, Maria's detachment from it. What Maria embodies is, not religion or religion-like faiths, but an entirely personal prayer, an inorganic prayer in the precise sense that it rejects any easy assimilation or harmony.
Talking about "prayer", I would like to point out two more matters relative to Maria in the story. One is that of "prayer and curse (inori and noroi)". When the boy is confused to meet the residents of the mansion on the beach, Hizume offers to write something to prove that it is not a dream. At Maria's suggestion, Hizume writes the words "prayer" and "curse" on the back of the flier the boy has carried in his pocket. Asked by the boy what those words mean, Maria answers that they mean the same, that they are both explicit mechanisms for giving back given life. To Maria, who is the "magma of existence", prayer and curse, two seemingly opposite acts, are one and the same in that both are limpid energy for "giving back given life". A vital question of life seems to be, not its black-or-white issues, but to what complete extent one can give it back.
Another matter relative to Maria is that of "the form and the soul". On the same beach, the boy finds Maria pouring freshly scooped seawater on Hizume's hands. As the boy asks why she can now walk, talk and hear, Maria replies that, although in this world the soul and the form are detached from one another, when they become one, the impossible become possible, enabling her to walk, talk and hear.
In writing this passage, I, again, dealt with the issue of death, or of life involving death, as an issue of dance, or of the "body". What Maria's answer means, then, is that, when the soul and the form become one, true life or true dance begins. In contrast, life that refuses to involve death, or that even tries to distance itself from death further, encourages the institution to intervene, causing the separation of the soul and the form.
In closing, who exactly is the boy? In short, he represents my hope. He participates in and carefully observes the unsolvable riddle of our life and living and will, hopefully, be one of those to open up the future of humans – or, at least, live to tell the tale. That is why the boy alone survives the gassing.
– Masaki Iwana, 3 December 2002 / La Perrotière
This film will be set in Japan and have Japanese characters speaking in Japanese. In that sense it will be a Japanese film, but its principal photography will take place in Europe and a majority of its production crew will be Europeans. This arrangement will mean much more than merely accommodating my schedule, which is divided between Europe and Japan. To wit, it will allow me to take a fresh look at Japan from a distance and know Japan – and "Japan" – better. This film reflects my deep longing for "Japan".
There is an indescribable distance between Japan and "Japan". Japanese of my generation (I am now in my late 50s) know this from firsthand experience. To be more precise, "Japan" refers to the way the country was during the several years after the end of WWII. Those were the years when its people rose up, Phoenix-like, out of post-war confusion and this, in turn, became the dawn of an entirely new era. It was a rare and sublime period in Japanese history when it was possible to observe people who, out of real necessity, could deviate from social norms and remove themselves, at least temporarily, from the institutions of the time.
As is often said, there is no "Japan" in Japan today. Where can one find "Japan"? The most direct way is to find it in the past, but one cannot hold the past in one's hands. The past exists only in records and people's memories or reminiscences. As such, the past is either highly two-dimensional (in records) or very personal (in memories). Nevertheless, reminiscences when shared by many can become a tangible force, bringing forth substantial elements of the past, with the elements of nostalgia filtered out. Further, when such substantial elements are visualised in a medium such as film, they can become a message. Though revisiting the past this way may not be the single most effective way to find "Japan", without doubt it can become a force. This is one significance of making of a film about "Japan".
Now, what positive aspects can there be to shooting a Japanese film in Europe, i.e., in doing so what will there be that can lead to a more positive discovery of "Japan"? The answer is that, even though it is no longer possible to go back in time to find "Japan", there still remains a possibility of finding it spatially, or geographically. Some examples of places and people activities that make this possible come immediately to mind: Markets in Istanbul are a mirror image of the post-war black markets in Japan; grassy fields along the roads from Rome's Fumicino Airport to the centre of the city are uncannily reminiscent of those in Tokyo just after the war. Many Europeans still make what they need for everyday living by hand and rely on intuition in their crafts and other work, which Japanese also used to do. The confusion and hustle and bustle, as well as thieves and beggars, in many European towns; people in India who walk barefoot for hours at a time… There are endless such examples in the rest of the world that vividly remind us of "Japan".
It is not just visual examples. The way Arabs, Koreans and many other peoples interact among themselves closely resembles Japanese relationships among families and friends in earlier days. The energy and aspirations among people in East European and other smaller European countries to build up their respective nations are reminiscent of the robustness of the Japanese in the extreme poverty they faced just after the war.
What is most important is not the mere fact that Europeans still maintain these ways of living but that such environment cannot but influence their thoughts and ethos. I feel, therefore, that this film, to be produced by an international crew whose members will bring with them their visible/invisible and tangible/intangible backgrounds, will allow me and others to see "Japan". That feeling is not based on idealism or optimism but a physical intuition of the dancer with a thirty-year career.
– Masaki Iwana, 28 October 2002 / Naples
No film can be without a cinematographic theme – and the theme should be in one with the film's story theme. The cinematographic theme of Vermilion Souls, after all, will have to be "(like) water, (the soul and the form are one in) light, colour and sound", as in Maria's line on the beach. I have a feeling that "mirrors" will also be important.
Another key element will be "darkness". Since some of the central characters have an incurable disease that forbids them to be exposed to sunlight, most scenes will be dark. The gas chamber and the tunnel, in particular, will be virtually pitch dark. Besides darkness, the "serenity" and the "calm" behind the clamour as well as the "faded colours" in post-war Japan also typified "Japan". These elements will be a challenge for my crew and myself in terms of both cinematographic technique and expression. I would like to elaborate on this issue at a separate opportunity.
– Masaki Iwana, 28 October 2002 / Naples
Cinematography Pascale Marin
Lighting Patrik Tomassoni
Jeremie Tondowski (Normandy)
Johan Lecomte (Brittany)
Gael Simard (First 7 days)
Heloise Claude (Remainder)
Production design Julien Pessel
SFX makeup for Maria Eizo Sakata
Makeup Takako Noborio
Syukichi Koizumi, Hiroyuki Kawaida (TVE – Japan)
Masaki Iwana (La Maison du Butoh Blanc – France)
文化庁 Agency for Cultural Affairs – Japan
Line producer Veronique Revil
Bill Fairhall, Rob Whitehead, Matt Grey
Le Quan Ninh
Editor Cedric Defert (Tingo Film)
Sound Editor Julian Ngo Trong (Tingo Film)
Film processing Centriage
Written and directed by Masaki Iwana
Copyright © La Maison du Butoh Blanc 2008
Running time: 104 minutes (158 scenes, 550 cuts); 16mm black & white; Standard size
Start of filming: July 15, 2004 (for a total of 7 weeks in France and Japan)
Completion: July 2008 (European version)
Produced by: Syukichi Koizumi, Masaki Iwana and Hiroyuki Kawaida
Written and directed by: Masaki Iwana
Director of photography: Pascale Marine
Cameras provided by: KODAK (Ariflex 16 SR)
Locations courtesy of: Parc Naturel Régional du Perche et Le Manoir Courboyer, Communauté de Communes du Pays de Pervencheres et Le Site de la Friche Industrielle de Dreux, Marie de St-Briac et Plage de La Garde, and Commune de Réveillon, Mortagne au Perche.
La porphyrie est une inguérissable maladie qui interdit l'exposition au soleil.
Le film Vermilion Souls traitent des gens qui ont une inguérissable maladie la porphyrie. Je voudrai vous expliquer brièvement cette maladie qui interdit aux malades l'exposition au soleil. Il y a 28 ans, lorsque j'étais élève d'une école de shiatsu pour devenir praticien de shiatsu, le Dr. Kondo (un des plus grand spécialiste de la porphyrie, à présent chercheur de L'Institut National de la Santé et de la Nutrition) nous a décrit sur cette maladie. Cette histoire m'a fortement impressionné et m'a fait penser instantanément à la claustration. Depuis ce moment-là je gardais toujours ce sujet en mémoire. Sans sortir à l'extérieur, sans contact social, voilés même à l'intérieur, sans prononcer aucun mot, fermant des fenêtre noires qui interceptent la lumière, ils restent assis toute la journée dans une profonde obscurité… presque comme il est décrit dans le scénario. Ce mois de janvier j'ai montré au Dr. Kondo le scénario le plus récent (5e révision). Il m'a dit que ce scénario était rédigé sans faute du point de vue pathologique. La 6e révision a été quand même modifié dans les détails pour prendre en compte ses conseils: menu de la fête, matériau des fenêtres noires etc…
D'après le document du Dr. Kondo, je résume une définition de cette maladie: la porphyrie est une maladie sanguine relativement complexe. Le sang humain comporte des milliards de cellules chargées de transporter les gaz respiratoires (oxygène et gaz carbonique) que l'on nomme hématies. Afin de bien accomplir leurs rôles, ces cellules contiennent une molécule appelée hémoglobine. Cette molécule agit comme un aimant et capte l'O² ou le CO². L'hémoglobine renferme elle-même un autre type de molécule: l'hème. Finalement, ce sont les porphyrines contenues dans l'hème qui sont à la base de la porphyrie. En raison d'une de sept enzymes déficientes, les porphyrines qui doivent s'évacuer dans l'urine sont détachées de l'hème et par conséquent, libérées et accumulées dans le sang: c'est l'anomalie métabolique des porphyrines. La porphyrie peut être classée de plusieurs façons différentes:
Aujourd'hui elle est classée par rapport à 8 symptômes.
J'ai compris cette fois-ci en écoutant le Dr. Kondo qu'il existe plusieurs formes de porphyrie et que l'état de cette maladie est assez varié et dépend des patients. Certains sont dans un état léger à tel point qu'ils peuvent sortir à l'extérieur protégés par une ombrelle, d'autres sont dans un état grave, comme les personnage du scénario. Il existe aussi des porteurs de cette maladie qui finissent leur vie sans aucun symptômes. Mais dans tous les cas cette maladie ne peut être guérie.
La porphyrine que je traite dans ce film est une photodermatite. Lorsque le corps des malades est exposé au soleil, la molécule de porphyrine reçoit l'énergie solaire et la convertit en une énergie toxique pour les cellules corporelles. Donc, les parties les plus exposées au soleil, soit la peau, sont les plus vulnérables à ce genre d'attaque. En général toutes radiations visibles et rayons ultraviolets longs sont à éviter par ces malades. Même la lumière artificielle pourrait être un déclencheur, et parfois il y a des cas qui les obligent à se voiler et à mettre des gants à l'intérieur.
Développons des différents aspects de cette maladie dans le déroulement du scénario. Hizumé a une conversation sur le balcon avec le jeune garçon pendant la nuit. Cette situation est largement possible. Les malades peuvent s'exposer à un éclairage doux de la lune. Ou bien, comme Masukiyo qui se jette au soleil, si un malade reçoit une trop grande quantité de rayons lumineux, il pourra avoir de sérieux problèmes de peau, dont, principalement, des éruptions cutanées, des cloques ou des ampoules. Puis des vésicules ou des bulles plus ou moins douloureuses vont laisser des cicatrices et enfin abîmer même les os. Ces symptôme apparaissent ou subitement ou progressivement. Pourquoi cette maladie, bien que si grave, est-elle paradoxalement très mal connue au Japon? Tout d'abord le nombre de malade est très faible. Au Japon le premier malade a été découvert dans la région de Tohoku en 1910. Depuis 798 cas ont été reconnus en ces dernières 80 années, soit 10 cas par an. Mais il est possible qu'il existe des cas plus nombreux que ces chiffres compte tenu des cas non déclarés ou ignorés des malades. C'est pour quoi cette maladie n'a ni reconnaissance officielle ni aide de l'Etat, malgré sa gravité. Les patients luttent tous les jours contre cette maladie solitairement ou entre patients sous les conseils de rares spécialistes. Une autre raison pour laquelle cette maladie est mal connue, c'est que ses causes et ses symptômes sont trop variés pour être reconnue comme la porphyrie.
En outre le préjugé et la discrimination contre les patients ne cessent pas surtout contre les enfants qui vont à l'école. Leurs camarades ou leurs parents leur reprochent d'être paresseux ou de ne pas s'amuser à l'extérieur. Par conséquent ils vivent en cachette comme dans le cas du scénario, ou bien il est possible qu'ils soient mis en quarantaine sur des mesures administratives, comme je l'ai imaginé. Voilà ce que je voulais vous communiquer sur la porphyrie. Le premier film de Brad Pitt (son premier vrai rôle), The Dark Side of the Sun réalisé par Arandjelovic a pris la porphyrie comme thème, et The Madness of King George de Nicholas Hytner et Vampire Carmilla de Denise Templeton sont également tournés sur le même thème. Le 31 décembre en 2001 au Japon, un documentaire de 30 minutes sur cette maladie est passé à la télévision. Cette émission a montré un enfant porphyrique et ses parents mais n'ayant obtenu qu'un audimat de 3%, elle n'est pas arrivée à faire connaître cette maladie au plus grand nombre.
– Masaki Iwana, 23 February 2003 / Athens
|20 Feb 2016||18:00-22:00||Screening of Vermilion Souls at Kid Ailack Art Hall, Meidaimae, Tokyo (Setagaya-ku Matsubara 2-43-11). Program: 18:00-19:45 film screening (with English subtitles) in the ground floor hall. A small party: 20:00-22:00 with Masaki Iwana (in the third floor gallery of Kid Ailack). Capacity: 30 seats Fee: Movie/party each 1000円 Reservations: +81 3 3322 5564 (Kid Ailack Hall). Special offer on the day: Buy 3 DVDs of Masaki Iwana's feature films and butoh essay book The Intensity of Nothingness at a cheaper price.|
|22 Feb 2015||1-9pm||Dublin Butoh Film Festival is delighted to present director/dancer Masaki Iwana for the Irish premiere of Vermilion Souls at The New Theatre, 43 East Essex St, Temple Bar, Dublin Tel: +353 (0)1670 3361. Day ticket: €33/€30 For more information see the Facebook page.|
|10 May 2014||20:00||Vermilion Souls was shown at Weltkunstzimmer, Ronsdorfer Str. 77a. D-40233 Düsseldorf (Germany). Eintritt: €3|
|05 Dec 2012||20:00||Vermilion Souls was shown at L'Antre 2, Salle de spectacle de l'Université Lille (France).|
|06 Nov 2012||20:00||Vermilion Souls was shown at Le Hall des Chars, as part of BUTOH OFF 2012 in Strasbourg (France).|
|22 Jun 2010||20:30||Vermilion Souls was shown as part of Festival Homunculus in Ravenna (Italy).|
|31 May 2010||20:30||Vermilion Souls was shown at Cinéma Lux (Caen, France). See www.cinemalux.org for details.|
|10-14 May 2010||…||Vermilion Souls was shown at Sala B: Sala de la Poseidonia during The International Butoh Festival HArU Project in the Congress Palace in Santa Eulària des Riu, Ibiza (Spain). See www.ibizacongress.net for details.|
|20 Sep 2009||…||We are very happy to announce that Vermilion Souls won the Best Film award at the Portobello Film Festival 2009 (London).|
|18 Oct 2009||…||We received the 8th official selection from the Montreal 38th International Festival of New Cinema from 7th – 18th October 2009. They said: "Beautiful, cutting edge and deeply haunting … there's no doubt that this film will be a great addition to our always highly selective programming."|
|17 Sep 2009||20:30||Vermilion Souls was selected for the Portobello Film Festival 2009 in London, England and shown at the Westbourne Studios (London).|
|23 Jul-02 Aug 2009||…||Vermilion Souls was selected for the Era New Horizons International Film Festival in Wroclaw, Poland in the 'Third Eye' section for artist-based films from 23rd July – 2nd August 2009.|
|21 Jan-01 Feb 2009||…||Vermilion Souls was shown at the Rotterdam Film Festival in Holland from 21st Jan – 1st February 2009.|
|13-18 Jan 2009||…||Vermilion Souls was shown at Asian Hot Shots in Berlin, Germany from 13th – 18th January 2009.|
|28 Nov-07 Dec 2008||…||Vermilion Souls was shown at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival / Eurasia competition in Estonia from 28th November – 7th December 2008.|
|24+25 Nov 2008||…||Vermilion Souls was shown as part of the 46th. Gijon Film Festival in Spain from 20th – 29th November 2008, specifically as a part of LLENDES, a special place dedicated to films that are "far from the kind of straightforward narrative film-making or dare to break the usual division between fiction and non-fiction."
Screenings: 24 Nov 2008 at 22:15 / 25 Nov 2008 at 17:00
|4 Nov 2008||21:00||Vermilion Souls was officially selected by the 14th. Lyon Asian Film Festival at Asiexpo in France, and shown at the Asiexpo Association, 9, Rue de Montbrillant, 69003 Lyon, France, +33 4 72 91 43 73 [MAP]|
For further information/enquiries please contact Masaki Iwana directly:
Tel: +33 6 2959 5245
Info: +33 1 4267 0272 (after 20h30)
Fax: +33 1 4380 4186
Vermilion Souls (2008)