The Clone Returns Home (Kurôn wa kokyô o mezasu)
The Clone Returns Home is one of very few sci-fi pics of Sundance, ever. Although first time writer/director Kanji Nakajima likes to think he’s moved beyond conventional boundaries of traditional sci-fi to a place that defies definition, or categorization. The theater was full of those interested in Japanese film, it also drew out a large, unruly and disrespectful group of ani-tards that all but lost their collective load when Wim Winders was mentioned as producer in the opening credits (yes, they even asked their questions during the Q&A in shitty Japanese that they picked up off the latest Sailor Moon manga novel).
Clone is certainly one of the more cerebral films found at Sundance this year. It’s an extremely competent meditative piece on the relationship between family, science, and religion (with extra focus on Buddhism and Nirvana). Kohei, a young astronaut, agrees to participate in an experimental cloning program that will “regenerate” his body and memory should he die. So when he’s killed during a space mission, scientists are able to regenerate his clone. But problems occur with its memory, which regresses to Kohei’s youth and the accidental death of his twin brother. Distressed, the clone flees the lab in search of his childhood home. Along the way, he finds his own lifeless body in a space suit. Mistaking it for his brother, he continues his journey carrying the body on his back.Set somewhere between the near future and a dream, as if a figurative mist drifts through it, Kanji Nakajima’s first feature is distinguished by the metaphysical space it conjures. With each new incarnation of Kohei—his clone, his body, his soul, his twin—our literal sense of story gives way to a metaphysical one.
The similarities between Nakajima’s piece and Tarkovsky’s work (especially Solaris) is uncanny. Nakajima’s filming style was clearly influenced by the time sculpting method that Tarkovsky pioneered. There were also extremely strong water motifs including one scene were it seemed to rain inside a room (sound like The Stalker?). Both Clone and Solaris deal with the replication of a deceased spouse and the confusion, and inner conflict it causes for those close to the clone, and the public outcry against the ethics of the whole procedure. Even the fact that Nakajima believes he moved into an undefinable genre is Tarkovskian. However, Nakajima seemed slightly offended at the suggestion that he was strongly influenced by the Russian director. He said that while he respects the director, his own piece deals with completely different metaphysical issues that, he hopes, inspires the audience to contemplate the meaning of family, science, religion, and ethics.
The cinematography was magnificent, filmed in almost all blues and greens with the rare scene showing blood, a bright red that jars the audience. Cinematographer Hideoho Urata is to thank for the beautifully shot scenes that were all filmed within an hour of Tokyo. Yûta Yamashita created one of the most powerful and moving original scores that I’ve heard in a long time. Nakajima also worked closely with Masaru Usui to create surreal soundscape that plays both with sound, and the absence of it. Some of the most beautiful and poignant scenes were completely silent, forcing the audience to focus purely on the physical actions of the actors and what it forced them to emote, not what the music was telling them to feel.
This is the best film I’ve ever seen at Sundance. The pacing will certainly deter many, the scenes are slower, action is minimal, but if you are willing to put in the work, The Clone Returns Home will haunt you (in the good way).