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Mishima in the movie: Still “Mishima-ian" amidst the opposition between the original and the image

The film maintains the blurring between the two, and even till the end, it refuses to give up the dual interpretation of science fiction and delusion. Nevertheless, in a metaphysical sense it is the very form of film art that fits perfectly with the aesthetics of Mishima.

(An abridged translation focusing on the film A Beautiful Star)

Publication date: 2018/5/22

How should Yukio Mishima’s work be adapted into a movie? How can the film give justice to the characters’ beautiful and rich inner world as Mishima had given the protagonists with a poet’s heart in his work?  Perhaps one can response in a “Mishima-ian" way: the opposition between the words from Mishima’s works and the images of its derivative films precisely mirrors the “Mishima-ian” aesthetics that focus on the structures in contrast.

What defines the contrarian structure of Mishima-ian aesthetics? Take The Temple of the Golden for example, the Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) architecture transcends its form and concept, becomes a profound illusion of beauty and a necessary condition for the protagonist to survive in adversity, but such absolute beauty is ultimately unbearable and one could only live with the anticipation of its destruction.

The “contrarian structure", rather than being two polarising ends, is more akin to two vines of a beanstalk shooting upwards intertwined with each other. For the characters, despite their existence always leading to disillusionment, their lives continue nonetheless. The reality parallel to the emptiness of existence is to live on. However, the idea that “no difference exists between existence and illusion" negates existence itself, and then proceeds to erode the magnitude of life. To overcome this, the motivation to negate the concept start to operate from the characters’ perspective and imagination in everyday life. But through the turmoils of life this form of double negation reaches a new stage of stability, for these characters are returned to an illusion again, with expectations to be denied again. Thus, the structure of “to survive vs. to live" is constantly, intricately intertwined.

The movie A Beautiful Star, directed by Daihachi Yoshida (based on Mishima’s novel of the same name) transforms Mishima’s contrarian structure to a more specific one, from the conceptual and abstract “to survive vs. to live" to the contrarian “sci-fi vs. delusion" narration. The film maintains the blurring between the two, and even till the end, it refuses to give up the dual interpretation of science fiction and delusion. Nevertheless, in a metaphysical sense it is the very form of film art that fits perfectly with the aesthetics of Mishima. In A Beautiful Star, there is no difference between the lie of letting one survive and the truth that one lives in. The father, a self-proclaimed Martian, first attempts to break into the TV station’s studio and is then taken away. After a while, there is flaming and burning of the studio on the shot, but later we discovered that it is not a special ability from the Martian, but rather the father working on the post-production to make special effects. The son then showed up trying to dismiss the father. The son seems to “override" his father, who shows up on a monitoring screen in a subordinate position, being stared at and put to blame. However, whether it is the image post-produced by the father or the image of the father’s powerlessness, it comes back into the film per se in the negation of the negation: What happens in this film is nothing but image, but precisely so, image has the dual quality of powerfulness and powerlessness. In our world dominated by image, the superpowers or supreme authority may be the ability to play and interfere with the images that exist inside the world, or even, encompasses the world.

How can the film “write" as Mishima does? If we make a parallel comparison between the “original vs. adaptation" and " to survive vs. to live", assuming that the original work is the perfect ideal in which a movie adaptation can never reach, the film must first cut through a new approach to break the curse of the impossible ideal. But even taking on such an approach could not escape the necessity to correspond with the original, although this very correspondence may be another beginning of developing huge differences.

Suppose we recognise that film is an art of subtraction and purification. It attains purity from the impure sea and the most rude waves that is life. On the other hand, literature is the development of an ocean from purity. The respective oceans that encounter each and every reader and audience could stir up thoughts of joy or loss. Thus, the variable approaches of film, whether attached or detached to the original, by converting, transforming, and deconstructing Mishima’s works, could retain every possible victories in each detail.

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