The Film We Can’t Stop Talking About
Trying to describe Aardvark, from director Kitao Sakurai, is a lot like trying to describe a color. You: “What does red look like?” Me: “Red”. You: “What is Aardvark like?” Me: “Aardvark”. It truly is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and that fills me with a type of excitement about film I rarely feel. I can’t stop talking about it, to the point where I think I’m starting to annoy my friends. But I haven’t talked to you guys before! :^D (Excited face, plus my big nose)
The story of Aardvark is simple. A blind man named Larry, in continuing attempts to keep his alcoholism under control, decides to take Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu lessons. A friendship forms with his instructor, and a horrific act of violence sends Larry on a quest to understand what happened and who is responsible. Like I said, very simple. The narrative of this film isn’t what makes it so compelling, one of the reasons it’s so darned hard to explain the appeal of it.
So let’s try the hook: Larry and his instructor Darren aren’t actors, they are the actual people that inspired this story! Using a combination of real and staged footage, the film slides seamlessly from documentary to fiction film! Crazy!
Did I just blow your mind? Probably.
But this isn’t just a gimmick. You don’t spend the entire film wondering what’s real and what’s not, that becomes clear pretty quickly. But rather, the reality of the characters intensifies everything about their performances. Larry is actually blind, so while he’s wandering around the city alone, it makes him seem so much more vulnerable than if it was just an actor. It’s tense, believe me. This isn’t to say he isn’t capable, he really is, but he’s also alone.
This is in addition to the oddly beautiful cinematography. Most of the locations are downright ugly, but they’re shot in a way that is somehow beautiful. The camera moves slowly if at all, and the shots tend to be pretty minimal. It fits the tenor of the film perfectly. There is a “blindness” to the way the camera isn’t showing us everything or whipping around like an excited dog. While the shots can linger a little too long at times, the music more than makes up for the lack of action.
Ultimately, this is a strange film, and the music is strange. The group “Fall On Your Sword” produced some pretty intense and unusual electronic music for the soundtrack. Immediately after watching the movie, I looked them up to see if they had any other releases. When’s the last time I did that? A LONG TIME AGO! The music keeps you from getting too comfortable during the moments of downtime. You’ll be thinking, “Whew, they’re just driving, I can relax now… what is this music?! I can’t relax at all!”
The thing is, I’m really struggling to describe this film. Talking about the individual aspects of it isn’t really satisfying, so I think I’m just going to let you in to my brain while I was watching it.
“Damn, this guy is really blind, not acting. Crazy!”
“This must be real footage of their Jiu-Jitsu lessons. IS IT REAL?!”
“This is so well-shot, even though on paper, it shouldn’t be, I guess.”
“WHAT IS HE DOING I’M SO NERVOUS!”
“This movie is so crazy.”
“What is this music? I want an album of this music so I can drive to it and pretend like I’m in a strange independent film.”
“WE WILL BRING THIS MOVIE TO LANSING AND THEY WILL REJOICE!”
I’m so excited for you all to see it.
I just hope this post makes you want to see the film, even if it doesn’t really do it justice. But maybe having Darren, the jiu-jitsu instructor, on hand to answer questions will make you want to see it more.
Oh yeah, by the way, he will be at the festival! OMGOMG I KNOW! I have so many questions for him! You will, too!