TIFF 2015 | The Whispering Star (Sion Sono, Japan)—Contemporary World Cinema


By Max Goldberg

Sion Sono continues to imaginatively engage Fukushima’s irradiated landscape in The Whispering Star, a surprisingly sedate space odyssey from the longtime enfant terrible. Megumi Kagurazaka is mostly alone as a Cast Away-like robot on an interplanetary delivery route. Her spaceship is done in the style of a traditional Japanese house, and the robot in turn seems to have been programmed to keep a clean house in the long intervals between drop-offs (compounded by a farcical day-by-day structure that wears very thin over the film’s 100 minutes). The packages contain artifacts of human desire for memory, and it transpires that the FedEx-style delivery system is itself a throwback: Kagurazaka’s robot muses how the convenience of instant teleporting sapped human desire for the unknown, “the longing for things far away [that] makes their heart beat with excitement.” This spirit of nostalgia and lament extends to the film’s up-market production design and its bald-faced lifts from Kubrick and Tarkovsky. Alas, while the visions of Fukushima and its wandering souls are undeniably haunting, one can’t help but feel that The Whispering Star remains a sketch, its slow-drip seriality better suited to an installation than a feature film.