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A man and a woman walk through a forest of cherry-blossoms. They shuffle on slowly, eyes vacantly searching the horizon, They are bound to one another by a rope, which trails behind them in the dirt and collects the fallen white petals.

This is the opening scene of Dolls by Takeshi Kitano. A movie inspired by the tragic tales of Japanese Bunraku puppet theatre. Kitano who is famous for his hard-boiled gangster movies, delivers a very different movie here, a very poetic one. In it, he tells three stories of love, loss and sacrifice.

One story goes as follows:

Matsumoto and Sawako are engaged. They are very happy, but Matsumoto is asked by his parents to break off the engagement and marry the daughter of the president of the company instead. He complies. On his wedding day he hears of Sawako’s suicide attempt and resulting loss of mind. He leaves the wedding, picks up Sawako and together they roam Japan. She a child who has retreated from the wide open spaces of reality. He a man who knows that he can never make up for what was done, but can only atone.

It reminds me of a quote from a Murakami novel: ‘But I didn’t know then. That I could hurt somebody so badly she would never recover. That a person can, just by living, damage another human being beyond repair.’

As the story progresses, Kitano doesn’t try to twist the plot into a Hollywood ending, where man’s capacity for hope defeat all odds. Instead he opts for the opposite route. Matsumoto and Sawako disappear inside their suffering as they wander the land bound by their rope. They become symbols of a greater loss, characters from an ancient Bunraku tale and as such sublime.

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