“Japón” (Japan) was directed by Carlos Reygadas, the same Mexican director who made “Battle in Heaven”. I appreciate both films and found both captivating, but both were very disturbing. (“Battle in Heaven” was much distrubing than “Japón”, however).
I am sure Reygadas means for his films to be disturbing, but I’m not entirely sure I understand why. Also, why is the movie called “Japón” when it has nothing to do with Japan? Perhaps it has to do with the meaning of the name? Japan means “the sun’s origin”. Perhaps Reygadas is saying that life originates in nature and what is natural and dies in what is man-made? But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Japón is about a disabled artist who is leaving the city in search of a peaceful place to kill himself. He ends up in the home of a very gracious elderly indigenous woman who welcomes him without question. She lives in a comfortable, but aging home overlooking a beautiful, rugged expanse.
The contrast between the urban setting the man is leaving and the sprawling expanse of the woman’s home is stark. There is a strong juxtaposition between what is manmade and what is natural: the profane vs the sacred. But just because something is sacred does not mean it isn’t brutal. The natural landscape the woman’s home overlooks is beautiful, but it is also extremely brutal.
We never discover the man’s name, but the elderly woman’s name is Ascen which is short for Ascension. Ascension is not to be confused, however, with Asuncion, which is what the man first calls her. She explains the difference. Asuncion is Mary’s bodily assumption into heaven. Ascension is Christ’s departure from Earth and his joining with God which involved suffering. Perhaps that has something to do with the title of the film? Maybe a play on words? (The origin of the Son). And a play on climbing (ascending) the mountain to get to Ascen’s home?
Ascen is humane and giving. Something about her and the brutal beauty of the terrain stirs life back into the man, so much so that he wants to have sex with her. She agrees. His body is aging, but not as much as hers. What does their union signify?
Perhaps it signifies the man’s ascent from his despair. But what about for the woman? She offers herself as a gift and doesn’t seem to receive any pleasure from the sex. Perhaps that’s the difference between the Asuncion and Ascension? Mary’s assumption did not involve suffering, but Jesus’ ascension, did. He descended into hell before ascending to Heaven. He had to take on all the sins of the world before he could ascend. Perhaps that is what Ascen is willing to do? Be a receptacle for the sins of the man?
I’m not sure. I’d have to watch the movie again to gain more insight. I might watch “Japón” again but I will NOT be watching “Battle in Heaven” again! (Or course, I say that now…)