The world is a stage and communication can be a bridge

“The whole world is a stage, and all men and women are just players.” This might very well be the most recognizable quote from william shakespeareit is As you like it. Life often imitates the dynamics of theatre, and vice versa. They are like two mirrors facing each other, making it impossible to distinguish which image is more real. Like Shakespeare centuries before him, Ryusuke Hamaguchi demonstrates through his work the connection between life on and off stage, going beyond the obvious and tapping into the subtle yet effective power of subtext. There is no more poignant exploration of this relationship in the director’s work than his nearly three-hour screen adaptation of Haruki Murakamithe short story. drive my car is a film that understands the theatricality of social life with its texts as well as its silences, charging the said as much as the unsaid with as much meaning. He understands that what a person chooses to reveal is as important as what they choose to hide. Action is not limited to external activity, it can also exist inside, imperceptible to those who do not pay attention to it.

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The intertextuality in drive my car is present explicitly through Samuel Beckettit is Waiting for Godot and further explored through by Anton Chekhov Uncle Vanya, which plays a major role in the story. It is above all in the juxtaposition of the scenarios of the playwrights and the intimate and often tacit life of the characters that the film takes on its full meaning.

drive my car cares about how people interact on and off stage, which perfectly shows that performing doesn’t just happen in the spotlight and in front of an audience. The protagonist, Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishikima), and his wife Oto (Reika Kirishima) are our first example. Although one is a working actor and the other has retired from the profession, in both cases their acting extends into their private lives. Note, however, that “acting” should not be understood to be entirely synonymous with “lying”. While the latter can be hollow and superficial, there is always some truth in the former, even if words are not spoken that accurately represent reality. Acting can take place every day of our lives and it is so intrinsic to our being that we can find it difficult to distinguish it ourselves. Hamaguchi understands that all human beings are “actors” in their own lives, as they change and adapt based on the circumstances and people they interact with.


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From the beginning of the film, Yusuke plays a role that has nothing to do with his theatrical productions: he acts like the husband who does not suspect his wife’s infidelity. He suppresses his emotions, his pain and his pain, in order to enforce the status quo of their marriage – until he finds out that Oto is having sex with a young actor named Koshi Takatsuki (masaki okada). Although Oto also acts like nothing has changed, she is the one who takes the first step to drop the act and tell the truth. However, the day it seemed his wife would confront him with this revelation, she died, thus forcefully breaking the cycle and robbing Yusuke of closure. He is no longer “waiting for Godot” because “Godot” is now dead and there is no one left to wait for.


Until the end, Yusuke never found the courage within himself to confront Oto about his infidelity. On the day we can assume they’ll finally talk about it, Yusuke drives around in his car, delays his ride home, and listens to the recording of Oto’s reading. Uncle Vanya. Yusuke may want to stick with the act so his marriage dynamics don’t have to change, but Chekhov’s text doesn’t let him off the hook so easily: “Because this woman’s fidelity is a lie through and through. There’s plenty of rhetoric but no logic there. Yusuke repeats in his car: “My life is lost, there is no going back. This thought haunts me day and night like an evil spirit. My past passed uneventfully. It does not matter. But the present is worse. What should I do with my life and my love? Although it seems almost devoid of emotion, we understand that below the surface, a storm is raging. The Russian playwright’s text reverberates significantly in Yusuke’s private life, challenging him to release the feelings and thoughts he has tried to stifle.


Oto’s story about the high school girl who breaks into her crush’s house gains added meaning on a second viewing as we begin to discern the extra layer of meaning that needs to be inferred. Through her story, and especially through her ending, which Takatsuki tells Yusuke, we can begin to see what is behind Oto’s act and what she may have meant to her husband on the day. of his death. In Takatsuki’s version, the high school girl kills a burglar who tried to take advantage of her, leaving his corpse behind. The girl knows there is no turning back and she has to confess what she did. However, when she arrives at school the next day, everyone acts like nothing is wrong, like Yusuke did after witnessing his wife and Takatsuki. Oto and the girl know they’ve done something wrong, that they’ve been caught for it, and yet, contrary to the natural order of things, the world remains unchanged. In the end, the high school girl turns to the surveillance camera, “the only change she has caused in the world”, and confesses to having killed the man. “I killed him,” the girl said, mirroring the way Oto was metaphorically killing Yusuke. The girl’s admission of guilt reflects how Oto had grown to resent his infidelities, to the point that she could no longer bear the seeming undisturbed normality. It’s not strange to think that Oto knew Yusuke realized he was cheating. The more we know a person, the better we can tell the real from the act, even if we can never truly peer into their heart.


This is a great example of how drive my car uses rich subtext to access the characters’ deepest truths. But arguably, the subtext shines most in the film’s intertextuality, especially through Chekhov. Two years after Oto’s death, Yusuke eschews the role of Vanya, as the play focuses on themes such as despair and the surface of a confusing past that hits far too close to home. The line between reality and deed becomes too blurry, and so, he passes the lead role responsibility to Takatsuki. This decision is deliberate, as deliberate as Hamlet choosing “The Mousetrap” to “catch the king’s conscience”. As Yusuke expresses it to Takatsuki while they are having a drink in a bar: “Chekhov is terrifying. When you say his lines, it brings out the real you. The decision is motivated by the need to unmask his wife’s lover, and Chekhov is just a vehicle to do so.

In drive my car, the play’s dialogue rids itself of the emotional repression of their usual daily lives and provides the characters with an indirect expression of their inner lives. But just as the text is endowed with a much deeper meaning than it appears at first glance, so the silences can be just as significant. Quote Victor Turnerit is From ritual to theatre: the human seriousness of play: “Social life, then, even its apparently quieter moments, is typically ‘pregnant’ with social drama.” It’s not a stretch to assume that playing the role of Vanya made Takatsuki more aware of Yusuke’s situation. When Takatsuki is taken from a rehearsal by the police for beating and killing a man, he doesn’t say anything to Yusuke, he just bows, showing his true respect to the man he had previously caused so much pain. Those who do not know the whole story behind the connection of the two actors cannot perceive how this gesture is loaded with meaning.


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So, in addition to acting, which is more pervasive than you might think, how do people relate to each other? If we were to boil it down to its fundamentals, the simplest answer might seem to be “language”, but that’s not quite right. Communication can bridge people, but only when there is the will to connect. In his adaptation of Murakami’s work, Hamaguchi makes it clear that communication is not a characteristic that belongs only to those who share a language, or those who can speak at all. Indeed, being able to speak the same language does not mean that one is able to communicate correctly, even if, for example, one has been married for more than 20 years. The fact that Chekhov Uncle Vanya is done in several languages ​​in the film, although it challenges communication, does not prevent it. Proving that the ability to communicate is not so much about language as it is about the willingness to connect, open the door and let vulnerability in.

Without a connection, communication is rendered inefficient. It works just as well in real life as it does on stage. When you share the stage with another actor, you can’t limit yourself to saying the memorized lines; there must be co-action, respect and awareness of others who share the same stage. It is by sharing a scene, by co-acting with another, that one can better understand one’s own inner life and achieve emotional catharsis. It’s what happens on and off the stage drive my car. Thus, the film offers a thoughtful reflection on the Hegelian principle according to which it is only through encounter with the other that we can know ourselves and achieve satisfaction. The ability to communicate does not depend so much on the language spoken, but on the willingness to connect, to share the scene and the stage.


We dive into dangerous waters when the act takes over our lives to the point where we become detached from ourselves and unable to articulate our deepest truths. Such is Yusuke’s case until he finds a moment of catharsis, emotional release, and admission of deep pain, thanks to his newfound connection with his driver Misaki Watari (Toko Miura). The healing process can finally begin when one lets go of the pretense, lets go of the mask, lets go of the pre-written dialogue and really begins to communicate.

The film’s catharsis finds its best expression in Sonya’s monologue at the end of Uncle Vanya, powerfully done in sign language. However, contrary to his message, drive my car proves that we don’t have to wait for the afterlife to reveal our suffering and pain to God, but that we can choose to do so in life. We can choose to be open to connection and allow ourselves to be driven by another when we don’t have the ability to take the wheel ourselves. We are all actors in this world that is a stage, and as such we inevitably have to share a stage, and we can only make the most of it when we allow ourselves to connect. Supported by connection, unfiltered communication bridges when it may seem like there is nowhere to go. Finally, through art, the audience and the artist can find the necessary path to the catharsis that real life sometimes denies.



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