TIFF 2013: Ningen Review



Contemporary World Cinema

Directors: Guillame Giovanettie & Cagla Zencirci

Japanese folk lore is whimsical, wide, weird, wonderful but heinously outlandish, overshadowing in alienation because of how odd and specific its supernatural inhabitants are. And much of that likely attracted Turkish filmmakers Giovanetti and Zencirci, nevermind that the film is, shockingly, mostly improvised by its own inhabitants. At first alienating and difficult to penetrate, but the more this urban reformatting of fable shrouds around you, the more magical this strange tale becomes.

Some indefinite time ago, the tanuki (a raccoon, remember Super Mario 3? That) and the kitsune (fox), both shape shifters, decide upon another one of their many wagers to transform into humans and see who can accumulate the most wealth. But the game was forgotten, and both players forgot they were only pretending to be human. Now a CEO of a burning company is ready to fold, a suicide attempt landing him in a mental health center, but his true fight begins when he learns where to find his happiness can be found.

For something assembled from the stories and myths supplied from its cast (some of the depressing details of the film lifted from the actual lives of the actors), it’s a miracle Ningen ends up so cohesively, even if you need to move through a fog of confusion first. There are moments that send your heart plummeting, with spirits and keeping it from hitting the ground. Ningen is one of the most interesting gems of the festival.

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