A Scene at the Sea (1991) is quite different from the other Takeshi Kitano Blu-Ray DVD releases that Third Windows have released this year. Most notably, the two main characters do not say a word.
Shigeru lives a fairly unexciting life in a coastal town working as a rubbish collector. When he comes across a discarded surfboard, he decides to repair it and teach himself to surf. Despite the teasing from the other beach bods, he keeps returning to the sea with his girlfriend Takako and attracts the interest of the local surf shop owner Nakajima. Both Shigeru and Takako, who are deaf and mute, are silent throughout the film.
I think the title, A Scene at the Sea, is very appropriate for this film because when your two main characters cannot speak, the visuals become even more important. This might seem like a challenge but, being the highly-acclaimed director that he is, Takeshi Kitano makes it look easy. All the emphasis falls on the actors’ body language, the position and duration of cinematographic shots and the soundtrack (composed by the ever-excellent Joe Hisashi). If you’ve watched more than one Takeshi Kitano film, you might notice that some scenes seem to last for a very long time whereas others last for only a second. While at first it might be distracting, this varied collection of scenes eventually come together to create a story that is told largely by sight, not dialogue.
A Scene at the Sea is also markedly different from most of the other Kitano films I’ve reviewed so far – its distinct lack of violence. Unlike Hana-bi or Dolls, there’s no blood, gratuitous deaths or gang violence. This was actually the third film that Takeshi Kitano directed, after yakuza-heavy Violent Cop and Boiling Point, and it demonstrated to the film community that his talents were not limited. A Scene at the Sea is still engaging and emotive, despite the lack of dialogue and ‘action’ scenes, and some of the silent scenes between Shigeru and Takako are simply adorable.
Overall, I really enjoyed A Scene at the Sea. It’s a great example of cinematic storytelling and draws together most of the elements that mark out an enjoyable Takeshi Kitano film – acting, directing, scene-setting, soundtrack and, of course, the expansive ocean and everything it represents (namely unlimited possibilities).