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Harmonium / Fuchi ni tatsu (2016)

2h 0m Drama, Thriller 2016

Toshio and his wife Akie and 10-yr-old daughter Hotaru live a quiet life above the small suburban sheet-metal fabrication works established by Toshio. Their lives seem settled to the point of mundanity. Akie is a church-going Christian whose faith, while not shared by Toshio, has been passed on to her daughter. Toshio is a man of few words, preoccupied by his flourishing business and somewhat negligent of Akie and Hotaru. Hotaru is a bright girl who rather hesitatingly plays the harmonium – she’s practising nervously for her first public performance. One day a cleanly dressed man, Yasaka, appears on the street outside the entrance to Toshio’s works. It’s clear the two men know each other, and while cordial formalities are exchanged there’s a sense of unease between them. There’s a shared past here which isn’t being revealed. Yasaka needs somewhere to stay and Toshio seems obligated to take him in - initially to the consternation of Akie. But Yasaka is immaculately well-mannered, helps around the house, tutors Hotaru at the harmonium and takes an interest in Akie. Slowly, slowly, Yasaka’s intentions become clearer, and familial ‘harmonium’ is the last thing on his mind.

There is a well-established tradition in Japanese cinema, made manifest by Yasujirō Ozu in his late films and continued more recently by directors such as Hirokazu Kore-eda, of dissecting the complacency of the suburban family and probing for the disquieting truths underlying the façade. Harmonium develops this tradition by straying into more disturbing territory. There’s a dreadful inevitability to the course of action here, and so the film touches on themes of revenge, karma and fate within the framework of the family drama. A film of two halves, the first of which quietly depicts the events which ensue following the reunion of the two men, the second of which examines the consequences of these events with more emphasis on the psychological fallout for the characters. It adds up to a compelling experience and the cementing of director Kôji Fukada’s reputation in the West, following his winning, with this his fifth feature, of the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.

“Exploring themes of grief, penance and revenge, Harmonium also has powerful things to say about gender and the extent to which that idealised harmonious life is founded on the willingness of women to shoulder emotional burdens without complaint. …this is a beautifully crafted film.” - Jennie Kermode, Eye For Film.

”…if you treat Harmonium like a mood piece, and you do respond to it on that level, you’ll find yourself thinking about it long after you watch it.” -_ rogerebert.com_

Screening as part of Japan 2021: 100 years of Japanese Cinema, a UK-wide film season supported by National Lottery and BFI Film Audience Network.

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Kôji Fukada


Kôji Fukada


Ken'ichi Negishi






Japan, France



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