Chie Hayakawa’s ‘Plan 75’ quietly wreaks havoc in Cannes

The heartbreaking dystopian film about a government program to euthanize the elderly marks the arrival of an exciting new writer-director.
Photo: Loaded Movies

One of the best things about Cannes is the chance it gives attendees to see something totally surprising and beautiful from an up-and-coming talent. This is what happened today at Chie Hayakawa’s Debussy premiere map 75, the Japanese filmmaker’s quietly devastating debut feature film. (2014 her student film Niagara was selected by the Cannes Cinéfondation.) Before the film began, Hayakawa took the stage with her stars and admitted that her “heart [was] banging so loud” in anticipation of the audience’s reaction. She said she worked on the film for years, referring to its beginnings as a 2018 short film of the same title, part of an anthology called Ten years in Japan. By the end of the film, much of the audience (including me) was in tears and on their feet.

plan 75 starts with a violent (and literal) bang, but unfolds with startling subtlety from there. It’s a plaintive wail that creeps up on you with its minimal dialogue and gentle poetic realism, making the near-future dystopia feel like our present, complete with government-sponsored health tents lining the streets. The film is set in a version of Japan where, faced with a rapidly aging population that is “exhausting financial resources,” the government decides to give anyone over the age of 75 the option (not required, but strongly recommended) to put them to sleep for free. Diegetic news reports explain that the policy is “controversial” but largely accepted by a culture that has a “history of victims” and is hot on the heels of “elder abuse” across the country — another grim echo of our times.

The film follows three main characters: Michi (Chieko Baishô), a graceful, proud 78-year-old hotel maid who leads a low-key but independent life punctuated with moments of happiness — karaoke with her friends, sliced ​​apples in the break room — before she is fired from her job and falls into deep loneliness; Hiromu (Hayato Isomura), a young recruit for Plan 75 who slowly realizes the innate horror of what he is doing as he comes into contact with his older uncle; and Maria (Stefanie Arianna Akashi), a Filipino woman who begins the film as a caregiver for the elderly, but her daughter’s declining health forces her to take a better-paying position at Plan 75.

Hayakawa presents the lives of each of her characters and the surrounding realities without sci-fi (à la Logan’s run), horror (à la midsummer) or melodramatic ruffles (à la never let Me Go), and the film is better suited for that – the concept is gorgeous enough on its own. And while it clearly directs its harsh social criticism at our contemporary culture of individualism and detachment from the total abandonment of government, it is not a sermon. That doesn’t mean you won’t feel mentally ill (I’m still nauseous hours later). Before the festival, Hayakawa narrated THR that she was inspired to do the film after returning to Tokyo from New York and feeling shocked at “how intolerant Japan had become … There was this new idea of ​​’ownership’ that was being talked about everywhere, and that Implications seemed to be that the marginalized should find a way to fend for themselves.”

Specifically, Hayakawa says she was moved to write the film after the 2016 Sagamihara stabbings in Tokyo, in which a young man killed 19 people at a nursing home for the disabled and said he was trying to “relieve” their families. : “I was angry and thought if Japan accelerated this path of intolerance, what would it look like?” plan 75 often returns to the idea that older people are a burden; Michi and her friends happily discuss their euthanasia plans to ensure a better future for their grandchildren, and Michi slowly comes to terms with her fate when she realizes that the welfare system is not designed to help her survive. But later in the film, when Michi illegally befriends the young Plan 75 agent who was hired to talk her into death, it becomes clear that she and the young woman both need and benefit from each other’s company – politics and their impact on the economic value of human life are deeply detrimental, not only to seniors, but a terrible harm to society at large.

If this all sounds very depressing – well, yes. Later scenes go so far as to conjure up the Holocaust, with Maria sorting and reluctantly pocketing the belongings of the recently euthanized in front of a wall of discarded shoes. but plan 75 is also a film about the small, tender moments that punctuate life and give it meaning: indulging in good sushi, opening a window at work to enjoy a great view, sleeping on a friend’s futon. Hayakawa wants to remind us of our humanity, our need for collectivity and community, and stop us from allowing our political leaders to reduce us to a number on a chart. Or as she put it in the Cannes press release: “The beauty and dignity of human life”.

https://www.vulture.com/2022/05/chie-hayakawas-plan-75-quietly-devastates-cannes.html Chie Hayakawa’s ‘Plan 75’ quietly wreaks havoc in Cannes

Lindsay Lowe

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