ARISTOCRATS: No (wo)man’s Land

When and where exactly does a dream meet the truth? There are two main views in cosmological theory that we can call celestial and terrestrial. We can call these two points in our world as urban and rural places in an abstract sense. Accordingly, the displacement of those living in urban spaces and those living in heavenly spaces always bring certain consequences with them. If urban lives and rural lives interchange by pure coincidence, most people’s minds tend to think that it’s a big opportunity to begin to “really” live. This is where the hierarchy, the opposition and the solidarity of the nature of things begin. Yukiko Sode‘s Aristocrats (2020), in the Big Screen Competition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2021, maps a hierarchy structure to the audience.

With the opening chapter of the movie, you can immediately see a story that is divided into sections within itself. In this film, which is an adaptation of Mariko Yamauchi‘s Tokyo Noble Girl (Ano ko wa kizokuあのこは貴族), the episodes that appear throughout the visual flow of the movie make us think about Krzysztof Kieslowski‘s Blind Chance (Przypadek, 1987). Although Aristocrats does not have a storytelling based on repetition as in Blind Chance, the fictional form of perspective structure that intersects with the narrative in each section emerges just like in Blind Chance. The cruelest way of being comes out at a time when hope isn’t a big deal.

Future Country: Foucault’s Heterotopia

The first chapter of the film entitled “Tokyo” speaks through the eyes of people at the top of the hierarchy. Tokyo part is different for everyone considering the meaning of hierarchy. Aristocrats tried to explain this difference from two very basic points of opposition. In this sense, it should be said that Tokyo, the introductory chapter of the film, is important. Although it seems like a soft introduction at the beginning, Tokyo is a part that will gain meaning with the end of the movie. The film has a very good cast. Starring is Kiko Mizuhara (Miki Tokioka), whom we know from Trần Anh Hùng‘s Norwegian Wood (Noruwei no moriノルウェイの森) movie which is adapted from Haruki Murakami‘s novel. And Mugi Kadowaki (Hanako Haibara), who played in movies like Love’s Whirlpool (Ai no uzu, 2014), Farewell Song (Sayonara Kuchibiru, 2019). And it goes without saying, Kora Kengo’s performance was also very successful.

Kiko Mizuhara & Mugi Kadowaki

The peak movement which Yukiko Sode creates in the film is where she explains the blind horror between classes, personal indecision, and the ongoing disturbances in daily life both subjectively and universally. Regardless of social class, every individual in a society demands some kind of light for his future. Sode has characterized this light metaphor in a connected way on Miki Tokioka and Hanako Haibara, members of two different classes whose paths intersect.

The word heterotopia was the term that came to my mind when i first saw Aristocrats. This term, associated with Michel Foucault, is mostly used for the “outsider”, “othered”. In fact, heterotopia is, in a sense, the utopia of the impossible to be hoped for. The fact that Miki is in the “lower class” according to Hanako in the movie may show her as “marginalized” at first glance. However, as the chapters progress in the film, you will see that “the other” is Hanako. Miki is a kind of physical representation of heterotopia while at the same time raising the possibility that a true utopian space is possible for Hanako. For her, Tokyo is like a prison, while Miki‘s Tokyo sees a parallel, different space from her own. Realizing this, Hanako floats in the air like a butterfly flapping its wings for the first time. Yet heterotopia is not a mirror. The reality that surrounds Hanako is her relationship with her surroundings. However, this creates a virtual reality for her, as she does not willingly build her entire network of relationships.

A Girl From A Small Town

The second chapter of the film, entitled “A Girl From A Small Town”, opens up a wide frame for you to focus your attention directly on the subject if you haven’t seen the social class divisions at the beginning of the movie. Especially the imaginary messages of the objects used in this chapter are very dominant. One can notice in detail how Miki‘s relationship with her education would reach, from the books on her desk to the way of life related to her family. Since there is a direct comparison mechanism between the first chapter and the second chapter in the film; we can say that in both parts, we first meet the main character, the narrator, and then the narrator takes us to the family’s table: we can easily understand both types of families shown in the movie with the arrangement of their tables. This chapter of the movie offers a “reason” for the overall script. The chapters after this one are somewhat the consequences of this cause.

Freedom Is A Trojan Horse, You Can Hide Anything In It

In Aristocrats, there are many elements about the strengths and weaknesses of female characters, but Kora Kengo, who is the leading actor in the film, does not directly reflect the usual dominant male type, so this choice of not being specific is also important. This man, who has an emotional connection with both Miki and Hanako, shows us that there are actually not just one gender, but also hierarchies of freedom between the genders. In this sense, Aristocrats is not a simple, tangible narrative of hierarchy, or even not directly criticizing this subject, the film shows the logic of hierarchy in the field of freedom and emancipation. In Aristocrats, which reflects such a heavy subject in the most naive way, the “rain” metaphor is also at a very important point. The dispersion of rain, a kind of heavenly purification feast, appears in the key scenes of the film. And the use of it kind of sheds light on the concept of freedom in the movie. Yukiko Sode conveys topics such as “hierarchy between classes” and “search for freedom”, which are frequently discussed in the world of cinema nowadays, but she does it within a poetic, dazzling visual language.

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