An Email Interview with Akihiko Yano, Director of “yes,yes,yes” [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

I wish I were better at writing about acting because every now and then I watch a film where there are astonishing performance that I am spellbound and profoundly moved. In those situations, I want to wax lyrical to do justice to what I have seen. Of course, every other aspect of the film counts, too. When I watched the drama yes,yes,yes I was not quite prepared for the actors who are, raw vulnerable, surprising, realistic, and honest.

Director Akihkro Yano worked with his cast closely and stripped away most movie artifice to get phenomenal performances to convey the emotionally intense situation in his script. The story concerns a family reacting to the news that the matriarch Sayuri (Nahoko Kawasumi) may die. This sets off emotional chain reactions that cause conflict, particularly with teenage son Takeaki (Kazuma Uesugi), before there is eventually, healing. It is a heartfelt story and it felt real. Indeed, it made me cry multiple times and gave a feeling of catharsis as I took in its lesson of learning to appreciate and love those around and thought deeply about people in my own life.

The film played as part of the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021. Thanks to the invaluable help of translator Takako Pocklington in translating questions and answers, I was able to interview director Akihiko Yano via email where he kindly explained about the background of the film, working with the cast, and his design choices.

Director Akihiko Yano at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021
Director Akihiko Yano at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021

The Japanese transcript is first and it is followed by English. Click on a link below to be taken to one or the other.

Japanese English

Japanese

Q: どうしてこの作品を書かれたのですか?

姪っ子が産まれまして、その姪を抱く僕の父と母の手や顔にはシワがあり、とても老いを感じました。産まれたての赤ん坊()と、老いた父と母。まるで、命のサイクルを見てるような感覚になり、ひどく落ち込みました。僕の中にわだかまるこの感覚、感情を、どうしても映画にして吐き出したかったです。

Q: このタイトルにはどういった意味があるのでしょうか?

yes,yes,yesというタイトルには、全てを肯定しなければならない。生き続ける為に、全て肯定しなければならない。という想いを込めました。強く肯定する為に、yesという単語を3つ並べました。

Q: 役者さんがそれぞれの役柄を見事に演じてられました。どうやってあの方たちを見出されたか、そして起用された理由について話して頂けますか?

主役の男の子以外の俳優陣は元々知っている方々でした。脚本を書いている時から、あの3人をイメージしておりました。派手すぎない、普遍的な家庭感を持っている俳優陣にオファーを出させていただきました。皆様、実力も申し分なく、こちらの要求に誠実に対応してくれました。主役の男の子はオーディションの中から選ばれました。彼にタケアキ役を演じていただけて本当に良かったと思っています。

Q: キャストの皆さんから本当の家族のような親密感が感じられました。映画の中での関係性を築くために、撮影以外の時間も一緒に過ごしたり、役柄の背景を用意したりという方法がとられたりしますが。あの役者の皆さんにも、撮影以外の時間を共有したり、何度も一緒にリハーサルをして貰ったりしたのですか?

主役の男の子以外(彼は宮崎在住です)は、東京在住ですので、3日間だけ稽古をしました。その3人の演技をまず作って、僕だけ宮崎に移動して、3人の演技に合わせた演出をし、上杉君の演技を作り上げました。上杉君と、他の俳優部の皆さんが会ったのは、撮影前日からです。家族の雰囲気を出す為に、現場の雰囲気作りにはとても気を使いながら、撮影を進行していきました。

Q:役者の方たちにアドリブで演じてもらったりしたのですか?それともあくまでも台本通りにしてもらったのでしょうか?

前半の病室のワンシーンだけアドリブがありましたが、他は全て台本通りに演じてもらいました。言葉があまり多くない映画ですので、一言一言にこだわりがありました。

Q:この作品には心身に訴えるような辛いシーンがたくさんありますね。あのようなシーンの撮影現場が、どんな感じだったのか聞かせていただけますか?

とにかく丁寧に演出するのを心がけていました。大事なシーンの前にはスタッフを含め、全員を集めて、何度もシーン説明をしました。その度に、俳優陣の集中力が高まり、緊張感のある現場になっていました。ただ、キャストスタッフに笑顔の無い現場には良い映画にならない、と思っていますので、なるべく冗談等を言ったりして、緊張と緩和を使い分けました。

Q: 撮影で一番辛かった、きつかったと思われた部分はどこですか?

撮影で一番辛かったのは孤独だったことです。()

監督は孤独です。僕がパニック障害の病気を持っているのですが、撮影中に何度も発症してしまい、薬を飲みながら、周りにバレないようにしたりなど。僕は美術の準備などしたりで、ほぼ寝れない日々でしたので、体力的にもかなりキツかったです。楽なことは一つもありませんでした。

Q: この作品のビジュアルを白黒にしようと思われたのはどうしてですか?

物語をとにかくシンプルに観せたかったです。カラーの情報を抑え、白黒にすることによって、より俳優陣の演技に集中できる映画になったと思います。

Q: タケアキがお母さんと電話で話すところは、本当に辛く悲しいシーンでした。お二人は実際に電話のこちら側と向こう側で話されていたのですか?

実際に電話で話しました。同じ部屋で撮りました。

Q: 監督は、カット全てに絵コンテを用意されたのですか、それともあまりきっちりと計算はせず、現場の空気に任せられたのでしょうか?

僕は簡易的な絵コンテを描きます。

ただ、いつも複数のカメラ(今回は2台のカメラです)で撮影します。僕が務めるメインカメラの画はキッチリと絵コンテ通りに収め、もう一台のカメラで役者の演技に合わせたポジションに入ってもらいます。映画的な画と、役者の演技を伝える為の画の2つを同時に収めていくようにやっています。

Q: この作品を見終わった観客の方達に、何を汲み取って欲しいですか?

お客様一人一人が、愛する人達に対する感情を再確認して欲しいです。

愛をもって、日々を過ごせば自ずと他人に対しての敬意が産まれると考えています。

愛を感じて欲しいです。

yes, yes, yes film image family

English

Why did you write this film?

I got a niece recently. When I saw my parents, whose faces and hands are wrinkled, holding her, I suddenly realised that they are old. There was a contrast between the new-born baby and my old parents. I felt like it was looking at a cycle of life and it made me feel extremely depressed. I really wanted to pour these feeling out in a film.

What is the meaning of the title?

The title contains the meaning that all things should be affirmed. You need to accept everything to keep living. I have put this thought into the title. To emphasise this, the word “yes” is repeated three times.

Each of the actors portrays their characters really well. How did you discover them and why did you select each of the actors?

I was already familiar with everyone, except the young actor who played the main character. Those three actors’ faces were already in my head when I was writing the script. I thought they have some kind of humble, universal and homely demeanour, so I offered the roles to them. They have brilliant acting skills and responded to my requests with their sincerity.

The main actor was chosen by audition. I am very happy with him playing the role of Takeaki.

There is a real sense of intimacy between the cast. A technique used to create relationships for films is to get the actors to spend personal time together and create backstories. Did you ask them to spend personal time together or rehearse a lot together?

The lead actor (Uesugi) lives in Miyazaki prefecture but the rest of the actors live in Tokyo, so we did rehearsals together for three days. I prepared the core performance with three of them first, then I travelled to Miyazaki and did rehearsals with Uesugi–kun whilst directing the other three actor’s parts.

Were the actors allowed to ad lib or were they sticking to a script?

I asked the actors to stick to the script apart from one scene. The scene at the hospital in the beginning of the film was played ad-lib. I didn’t want to compromise the integrity of the film, especially because this film has little (spoken) dialogue.

There are many physically and emotionally intense scenes in the film. Can you talk about what it was like on set?

I tried hard to direct the actors carefully. I explained the scenes repeatedly to not only the actors but also the other staff before shooting it. The more I explained, the better the actors focussed on acting and it created a tense atmosphere. However, I also think that laughter on set is crucial to make a good film, so I tried to tell jokes whenever I could to keep the balance of tension and release.

What was the toughest part of the shoot?

The toughest part of the shoot…it was solitude 🙂.

The director is alone. I suffer from panic disorder. I had a panic attack several times during the shoot. I was taking medication and tried to hide it from people around me.

I hardly slept whilst making the film since I was also working on visual design. It was physically hard as well. There was nothing easy.

 Q: Why did you choose to have the film’s visuals in black-and-white?

I wanted to make the story visually simple. By getting rid of colour and expressing it in black and white it makes the audience focus on the actors’ performance more.

Takeaki’s phone call with his mother is absolutely heart-breaking. Were they both actually talking to each other to get that performance?

Yes, they were actually talking to each other on the phone. I shot the scene in the same room.

Did you storyboard all of the shots or was it spontaneous?

I usually create a rough storyboard.

I usually use several cameras to shoot (I used two cameras for this time). The main camera, which I used, focused on the full picture following the storyboard. The other camera moved to capture the movement of the actors. I tried to frame the film both in a Cinematic picture and a picture that focusses on the actors at the same time.

What do you want audiences to think about after watching this film?

I want audience to re-acknowledge their own feelings for their loved ones.

I believe that you would be able to cultivate a feeling of respect for other people if you live your life with love.

I want them to feel love.

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