Get behind the wheel of my car is a Japanese film adaptation of one of the short stories by Haruki Murakami, a contemporary writer.
This is history within history. The first line represents the relationship of the theater director and his wife, who died of a brain bleed, slowly flowing into frank conversations about the past on the way home. The second line is the staging of Chekhov’s play “Uncle Vanya”, along the way revealing the internal conflicts of the heroes of the film.
The relationship between Yusuke Kafuku and his wife Oto is far from ideal. She started to cheat on him a long time ago, and he knows about it, but does not make scenes – he just silently watches and listens to her stories, invented during sex, waiting with interest (and slight disgust) to continue and remembering every detail in order to write down and give wife in the morning. Oto has some kind of illness that destroys her from the inside, but Yusuke does not delve into it, avoids the problem in every possible way. Oto does not remember what she says, but thanks to her husband’s notes, she can send her works to competitions and, I must say, her ideas are in demand – she even wins the competition.
Yuusuke constantly feels discomfort and guilt, especially after Oto dies. He considers himself guilty of this, because he deliberately returned home later to avoid a scandal. This conflict goes deep, straight into the subconscious, constantly pestering the director and haunting him. Moreover, despite the absurdity of Oto’s stories, he still wants to know how they ended. And he will know. The end of the story will be told by a young actor and one of Yusuke’s wife’s lovers, but after this finale, he will have even more questions than before.
No matter how much Yusuke runs away from himself and reality, he has to admit his unenviable position. Everything is not as perfect as he would like. An oppressive emptiness has long settled inside, so related to him with the main character of the play “Uncle Vanya”, which he previously had to play with his wife. Everything now reminds me of her. He tries to mold her from an actress who has taken the same role. A diverse cast of actors who are not suitable for their age and speak different languages (even sign language) causes a lot of difficulties and dissatisfaction for the director, simultaneously plunging him into the past and keeping him in constant tension.
Revealing to them the essence of the idea of the play and constantly forcing them to immerse themselves in the text, understand it from the inside and pass it through themselves, Yusuke himself involuntarily begins to rethink his whole life again and again, sharing personal tragedies with his driver – Misaki – who also has her own story. Yusuke, the more he immerses himself in her stories, driving with her in the same car, the more he sees himself in her, feels an involuntary kinship with her, realizes and understands not only her, but also his own problems.
Japanese culture of various kinds is always directed inwards, towards the reflection and self-reflection of the characters, towards the reaction and rethinking by the viewer of this or that act of the hero, who is able to instantly turn the picture upside down. In addition to the personal tragedy of the main characters, their interaction with each other and attempts to solve their problems and internal conflicts, the film puts forward another idea and tries to show how it can be realized. And it is connected not so much with the intrigues of the human soul, but with the unification for the sake of a common goal. Here it appears in the production of the play “Uncle Vanya”, for the sake of which such different people were gathered.
Their age, acting skills, completely different language – they do not understand each other, which is why they have to look for an alternative way to communicate with each other. To achieve a common goal, they enter into synergy, looking for ways to cooperate, and the viewer watches how this happens: tapping, reading emotions and gestures – all this makes it clear what the interlocutor is saying. The performance succeeds precisely because people, completely different and dissimilar to each other, not only managed to understand each other, but also united in order to achieve a jointly set goal. If it worked in the theater, then maybe it will work in another incarnation?
Against the backdrop of this global problem, the deeply internal problem that torments not only the protagonist, but also his entourage is revealed. What to do with the aching emptiness inside, with guilt, with fatigue, the loss of loved ones? It becomes easier for a person when he works through the problem, thinks about it and shares it with others, receiving other views and ideas for solving it. Let this path be long and hard, sooner or later everyone will be able to get to the bottom of the matter and let go of what worried and destroyed from the inside for more than a year, and then the emptiness will recede. We need to live on – this is the message of the film, a long-known truth, filed in new facets with the thoughtfulness characteristic of Japanese culture and focus on the emotions of the viewer.
Undoubtedly, “Drive My Car” is a story about cooperation and the search for inner peace, and it is perfect for those who are ready to dive into someone else’s history, get into other people’s heads and get acquainted with the demons that are devouring a person from the inside. Perhaps for some this film will be a breath of fresh air, but perhaps not.