“Death is an illusion.”
Essentially an old school gothic romance twisted by Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s inimitable restraint and gliding camera. Kurosawa’s camera occasionally moves like Bunuel’s once did, a sort of curious omnipresence – except, where Bunuel found joy awe in his imagery, Kurosawa only finds fear and regret. He trains you to search every inch of the frame for something horrible, something terrifying – and though you usually find nothing, his atmosphere morphs frustration into dread. You begin begging the film to show you something unwell.
Occasionally this patient approach tries my own, as Kurosawa loves to soak in banality for the sake of a tone that could be strengthened by a tightening. Sometimes, he has the opposite problem; in the few occasions Daguerrotype enacts its plot in active bursts, it moves too quickly, sliding over melodramatic developments haphazardly when a slower reveal would have worked better.
These faults fade away, however, when you allow the film to put you under its spell. Kurosawa knows that ghosts don’t have to be seen to haunt you, and that the absence of an image is often more powerful than the opposite. The final sequence, in particular, delivers information that the audience already knows, but Kurosawa cuts it with such heartbreaking quiet that it becomes poignant despite its inevitability. Not too long before that, the only true moment of outright horror juxtaposes terrifying stillness and reckless retreat such that my breath was lost, giving the audience exactly what they had been expecting the entire film but shooting it so sincerely that it nears corniness – instead, it finds profundity.
The camera keeps us alive. A picture, or a film, does not acknowledge the future, it only exists for itself. As soon as one acknowledges the end, it becomes true.