Film scholar Linda Ehrlich on creating a commentary track for Maborosi
Linda Ehrlich with Milestone designer and former intern, Lauren Caddick
You have to love a film to watch it more than 10 times while writing and recording a full-length commentary. Luckily that’s the case for me with Maborosi.
I’ve seen most of Kore-eda’s films, and they all fascinate me, to varying degrees. But Maborosi never loses its place as the top. Maborosi is the story of a young Japanese woman from the working-class, and her subtle process of facing traumas. This luminous film was shot on location, using only available light and some low-key lighting.
When Amy and Dennis asked me to record a full-length commentary, my first reaction was: “I won’t have enough to say.” But it turns out that I did! Of course I’m hoping everyone will watch the film for the first time WITHOUT the commentary (that’s for a subsequent viewing).
My goal, as I state at the beginning of the commentary, is to “accompany” the film with my words. The film is in the foreground; my words are an unobtrusive background. In fact, at first recording, I left some extended moments of silence in the commentary where I wanted viewers to focus on certain dramatic sequences or narrative ellipses. Afterwards I realized I had left out some information that was crucial. Milestone kindly allowed me to do a second short recording of about 15 minutes which we “glued” into the original commentary with the help of the excellent recording technician.
I admire people who can just “kibitz” (chat) as an offscreen commentary, but that’s not my style. At times I think I got the timing just right to match word with image. The film is based on a story by Japanese writer Miyamoto Teru entitled Maborosi no hikari (Illusory Light). In comparison to the film, the short story offers more insights into the protagonist’s world, and more dialogue stemming from that world. I drew the story into the film, and also I pointed out many details about everyday Japanese life, with invaluable details added by my Japanese colleague, Yuki Togawa (now Gergotz).
When I saw the new print (after doing the recording), I was amazed how much brighter it is than the original one I had been using as my source. I’m so glad to hear that Kore-eda-kantoku (director) approved this more-legible print. Alas, I then realized I had misidentified one scene! But all in all, I’m proud of my work and hope it adds to the viewing pleasure of a second viewing.