Hirokazu Koreeda's sublime Like Father, Like Son premiered at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year and won the Jury Prize. It was one of my favourite films of the festival and I was lucky enough to see it again at the London Film Festival this week.
I was also lucky enough to speak to Mr. Koreeda about the film and a number of choices he made in telling this story of children switched at birth. Read on to find out what he had to tell me.
Why did you choose fathers in particular?
It's probably because I have a six year old daughter, so being a father is something that is so close to my heart at the moment. It's something I'm going through.
Was it hard balancing Ryota Nonomiya being a 'bad father' with him also being sympathetic?
It was a hard process. It was actually quite difficult to do it. That character talks about money all he time, his view of women is slightly problematic and he's not likeable but it was very… borderline making sure the audience didn't dislike him too much and move away from him. It was a very careful, crafted portrayal.
How did you develop the relationships between the actors/characters and did you shoot in sequence?
Basically, yes, it's shot in sequence. Following the timeline as it happens. So that when the two families meet for the first time that was actually when the two families did meet for the first time.
How did you come to some of the more smaller, subtle moments – like the mother winking at the son?
That particular one was in the script. Most things are written. I think I've always put things down. Most things I do write in the script but there are other things, like the child who kept on saying, Why? Why? Why? and Oh my God! That was all he said during the audition when he came in and that's just what he kept saying. I actually took what he said and incorporated it into my own script.
There are things that I took from the actors rather than being in the script originally. So, it was a mixture. And I don't give scripts to the children at all. So that scene with the father, all I said to the child was, the daddy is going to be asking lots of things, you just say what you normally say. Carry on saying Why? Why? Why?
So I give the children that kind of instruction rather than give them scripts.
How do you feel your background in documentary filmmaking has affected the way you work?
It has had an impact but I don't know… There isn't a methodology or a particular influence that I got from documentaries but I think that having filmed documentaries about people's lives and people's ordinary lives – whose lives just existed before the film and will after the film – I have actually formed an ideal of the film, that it will portray families or situations of ordinariness. Which start before the film and continue after.
That has come, perhaps, my ideal, from the fact that I filmed documentaries before. Where I saw so many ordinary lives.
There is often a very strong consistency in your style. Why do you decide to sometimes break from this, such as the cuts to black in Like Father, Like Son?
That particular one – when the son has come to the flat for the first time – I wanted to film as much as possible. For him experiencing the first time he's in the flat. There's an awful lot of long footage so I always intended that there would be a sort of time lapse indication. So, I was going to put black in there.
Otherwise I think it's sort of smooth. I think there are parts where time does flow naturally in sequence but there are other scenes where time just sort of rolls from chunks to chunks to chunks. In my mind there are differences between those two different ways of time flowing.
Thanks again to Mr. Koreeda. Like Father, Like Son is out in UK cinemas on the 18th of October.