If there’s one thing a film festival always proves, it’s that there are countless ways to see the world: fast, slow; violent, peaceful; restrained, exaggerated; joyous and heartbreaking. Naomi Kawase’s Radiance adds one more unusual perspective to that list with the story of a group of blind people collaborating on a test screening for an audio-described film.
It’s something we rarely consider, but there can be few things more devastating for someone who loves and lives through images than to lose their sight. Photographer Masaya (Nagase) faces that struggle before our eyes as he relinquishes his grip on a lifelong passion out of tragic necessity. Nagase’s performance is resilient and world-weary, facing his new impairment with a calm exterior but untold inner turmoil. He is the heart of this film, showing flashes of irritability, understanding and depression that speak volumes.
Opposite him is Misako (Misaki) as the writer/narrator of the film-within-a-film’s audio-description. In essence she authors the piece all over again, translating it into a new form. In this sense Radiance is firmly about the power of imagination and the burden of creation. It’s hard enough to create something that resonates with people when you speak the same language, but when they are consuming your story in an alien way it makes the feat of imagination so much harder.
This quest makes Radiance a hymn to understanding and an open-minded call to try and see things a different way. When Kawase achieves this focus through her use of tight closeups and intimate dialogue, Radiance is at its brightest.
At times however it becomes a little too academic, dragging itself into meta cul-de-sacs and losing sight of a broader emotional arc that might be more appealing. Kawase tells this story very well, but it’s a little too niche to truly hit home.
CAST: Tatsuya Fuji, Mantarô Koichi, Ayame Misaki
DIRECTOR: Naomi Kawase
WRITER: Naomi Kawase
SYNOPSIS: Radiance follows the social intercourse between a cameraman, Masaya, with a lazy eye, and Misako.