Marginal Short film review


Written and Directed by: #KotaNakamura

Starring: #RitsukoKuboniwa, #KotaBaba, #RyoSugita, #AyoHosomi and #RyusukeWatanabe

Short film review by: Brian Penn

Marginal (2021)

A short film that starts with monochrome titles and the caption ‘an experiment of film’ conjures certain images in the mind. One immediately thinks film school projects, hand held cameras and DIY graphics. That pretty much is what we get here. And the result is an interesting but occasionally puzzling study of a goldfish bowl that is now the society in which we live. With more than a hint of big brother imagery, the director in the story Shimada (Ryo Sugita) moderates a succession of brief exchanges between the principal actors in the piece. Yuji (Kota Baba) and Satsuki (Ayo Hosomi) appear to portray a misfiring relationship while Aki (Ritsuko Kuboniwa) is a voyeuristic almost meddlesome presence. Ryusuke Watanabe makes fleeting appearances as the Timekeeper ominously counting down the seconds.

Flickering black and white images give the impression of close circuit TV which enables the audience to eavesdrop on conversations. However, the focal point remains Yuji and Satsuki who act out and then interpret their own behaviour when the time limit has been exceeded. But elements of doubt are quickly sewn by subsequent conversations; are they in a real relationship? The hideous spectre of structured reality TV springs to mind but then quickly presents the audience with a different scenario.

So what conclusions can be drawn from this experimental short piece? It raises infinitely more questions than it answers. It will make viewers wonder what message the narrative is trying to communicate; or whether it was communicating a message at all? Tracts of dialogue are also repeated without any obvious value or purpose. In spite of the ambiguity there is something strangely engaging about the characters’ motivation. To stoke this level of curiosity is quite an achievement with the limited resources at their disposal. The director is frequently accused of behaving like a puppeteer pulling the strings. I do wonder whether the puppeteer is really pulling the strings of the audience?

Marginal: Short Version screens as part of the BFI Future Film Festival from 18-21 February, free on BFI Player: