Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. - Eleanor Roosevelt



Monday, May 19, 2008

Doing Time

I found something out recently.

I found out that if I ever wanted to commit a crime only big enough to send me away to prison for a few years (which I don't), perhaps I should make sure Japan has jurisdiction.

Doing Time, a Japanese film depicting the mundane details of everyday life in a Japanese prison informed me of this odd FYI-worthy and possible fact. This film is based on a manga comic book of the same name, but is also the true story of the life of Kazuichi Hanawa, the comic book's author, who spent three years in prison himself.

In Doing Time we are introduced to Hanawa, a 60-plus-year-old man in a Hokkaido prison for three years on an illegal firearm possession charge. In prison, Hanawa lives in a room, which he describes as a pen holding him and four other prisoners. He dubs his living situation as: "Five animals in the pen". The prisoners sleep on cots with sheets and comforters. There is a dining table in the middle of the room along with a TV and a big enough window that the bars don't seem so oppressive. The five prisoners go about their days waking up and using their electric razors to get ready for their jobs at the prison factory.

At this prison, there are highly anticipated bath days, movie days and bread days. There is one particular scene in the film where Hanawa, the main character and narrator talks about bread day. He says the bread served in prison is "thousands of times better" than the sweet cream bread from his childhood, without knowing why the bread on bread day tastes so good to him.

Hanawa's fellow inmates have committed crimes that range from robberies to murder. They all look forward to when they will get out and start afresh with what little money they had saved from before prison, and while in prison. They all have longings for things they will be able to do once they are free men... one man looks forward to holding his kid again.

Hanawa narrates mundane details in the tradition of the Manga comic book. The viewer becomes so engrossed in this world he describes, that it is anything but boring to watch simple actions take place in this Japanese prison. There is comedy, drama and very touching moments when you're glad that prison isn't too harsh a place where these guys have been sent away. When the film ended I was sorry to leave the characters I was introduced to and came to like, particularly Hanawa who throughout the course of the movie does undergo an arc of some sort... as simple as the realization that soy sauce on rice is delicious.

This 2002 foreign award-winning flick is a lot of things, but boring it is not. See it.

1 comment:

Elisabeth said...

Cool! I will definitely have to check that one out.

By the way, I heard the prisons in Norway are really nice -- better than college dorm rooms, so if you're shopping around for places to do time, you might want to consider that option too! ;)

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