Kanon Soeda, a teenage girl, flees after being caught stealing at a convenience store. She dies in a fatal accident while attempting to flee. Mitsuru Soeda, her father, is known for his bad temper. He explodes his sadness in all directions after receiving the sad news, triggering a chain of reactions that nearly destroys his world and the world of his late only daughter.
Keisuke Yoshida's film is one of 14 cross-genre films in the 2022 Japan Film Festival lineup.
Increase in Alienation, Decrease in Empathy
Departing from the premise stated above, Intolerance investigates alienation that occurs concurrently with the terrible tragedy. The father's character is inevitably the first to be alienated.
He consistently underestimates and abuses almost all the people he interacts with daily, beginning with the only crew on his boat, his ex-wife Shoko, and even his own daughter. When the convenience store manager, Naoto Aoyagi, caught Kanon and killed her, Mitsuru confronts Naoto and a young woman who owns the car that hit his daughter.
Mitsuru refuses to apologize, denies Kanon was caught shoplifting, attacks his daughter's school on the personal assumption that there had been bullying on Kanon that the teachers had failed to detect, and stalks Naoto as a form of subtle terror.
The title of this film also clearly refers to Mitsuru as the protagonist, who cannot be tolerant of opinions and beliefs that differ from his own. The Japanese title Kuhaku, which means "empty," emphasizes that Kanon's death reveals how little the girl's existence meant to her teachers and classmates.
True, a sudden sense of loss combined with a spiritual shock can cause people to lose their ability to think clearly. Mitsuru's characteristic, which appeared to lack empathy from the start of the film, worsens in this film.
His rage erupts in all directions, turning away those who were once his allies. Instead of collaborating with various parties in his pursuit of truth and justice, the father isolates himself and becomes increasingly paranoid.
Naoto suffers from the second alienation. The regretful sentences wrapped in uncertainty that he sent to a reporter who appeared sympathetic in an interview are actually edited in such a way that he cannot empathize with the victim's family.
The media then exacerbates this situation by exaggerating public opinion polarization. This can be seen in the threats and rebukes Mitsuru receives, as well as in the fate of the mini-market where Naoto works, which has gradually lost its loyal customers.
Naoto finds it difficult to express the psychological pressure he feels from Mitsuru and the public as he becomes increasingly cornered and isolated. The crush then convinces him to take a shortcut.
The following alienation is likely the most lethal, as it whacks the driver and owner of the car that hit Kanon. She takes a shortcut first, realizing that her apology is pointless in Mitsuru's eyes. Midori Nakayama, the rider's mother, challenges Mitsuru.
Despite its most destructive nature, Mitsuru's alienation serves as a watershed moment in his future perspectives and decisions.
The final alienation is the only one that involves empathy and is not directly created because of the film's central conflict. Asako Kusakabe, a middle-aged convenience store clerk who secretly loves the much younger Naoto, is the lone defender of the manager.
At its peak, she becomes Naoto's savior, but her affection is not returned in the way she had hoped. Her love is forced to die besides losing her job.
The Media’s Role
Contemporary Japanese films are trained to show how the media, both locally and nationally, fosters the consumption of chaos and social shaming in the name of public preference. Such an occurrence is even classified as the influence of bad weather on Mount Fuji, one of Sakura Country's most recognizable symbols.
Keisuke Yoshida's film depicts how the media reacts to a tragic and sensational event, as well as the subsequent steps as current coverage or talk shows, and the media's decision to expose their own intolerance, which is revealing the goal of the meaning in the film's title. Instead of lowering the social temperature because of Kanon's death, the media has exacerbated the situation.
Intolerance is quite successful in presenting the bare reality that the media speeds up the alienation of the individuals involved as well as individuals with their surrounding environment, dividing the public into poles of opposing extreme opinions while maintaining the polarization that then destroys the livelihoods of the people caught up in the tragedy's vortex. We also see how, when there are no cameras or media crews, the seeds of reconciliation and turning points toward the conflict's climax are planted.
When photographing certain social phenomena that have a high chance of attracting the attention of the public, the director's creative decisions in the choice of narration inevitably strengthen the assumption regarding his tendency to expose the dark side of the mass media.
That there are still private spaces untouched by sympathetic media, interaction spaces with the greatest potential to find a common middle ground for all isolated individuals, is a breath of fresh air. Mitsuru's spontaneous jokes about himself or his child while watching television are straightforward in describing the situation.
Finally, Intolerance does not seek individual peace as its goal. It patiently waits for the same peace to gradually grow in each character, a type of peace that can provoke a social monster to return to being transformed into an ordinary human with all of his personality's complexities.
After all, self-awareness is the primary key to accepting reality and the surprises that follow that critical acceptance. Call them unanticipated hints about Kanon's unique characteristics that emerge implicitly from her artworks during her lifetime.
That Kanon wasn't a "kuhaku" teenage girl; it is a simple realization that implies a sigh of relief after all the difficulties Mitsuru, Shoko, her teacher, and Naoto have gone through while wailing one after the other.