one man standing with arms raised and another crouching in the desertalr

The Kingdom
(Okoku)

Screening on Film
Directed by Kanai Katsu.
With Akiyama Hiroshi, Hagino Motohiko, Hida Yoshitaka.
Japan, 1973, 16mm, color, 83 min.
Japanese with English subtitles.
Print source: ACC Cinematheque

My first film, The Deserted Archipelago, emerged out of the intersections between my own experiences and fantasies and Japan’s postwar history, and, as such, I might call it the “Human Chapter” of my trilogy. In contrast, Good-bye pursues the mystery of my distant DNA. Since it moves from blood to land, I might call it the “Earth Chapter.” Following these two narratives came The Kingdom. Even if we were to deny all gods, there is one god controlling us, one god whom we cannot refuse: the god of time. The Kingdom was my challenge to that god of time as well as the finale, “The Heavenly Chapter,” to my Smiling Milky Way Trilogy.

The story is about a popular poet, Goku Kastsumaru, who grows depressed when his editor jokingly implies that he is a “sell-out to his times.” Around Goku appear first a “Team of Pickpockets With Plans to Steal Time” and, later, the Bird Doctor, who develops his research on migrating birds and, in particular, their internal clocks, “to liberate himself from the bonds of time.” Goku, who now dreams of becoming a poet for all time, employs the knowledge he has acquired from these men and travels from a field in the Hachioji suburbs of Tokyo all the way to the Galapagos Islands, where he attempts a total transcendence. The film is both an incredible adventure story as well as the kitsch formulation of a new “myth.” I had been challenged by the words of the young Oshima Nagisa, who declared, “I won’t accept something as cinema unless it is founded in an absolutely new story and an absolutely new methodology. We cannot be allowed to imitate ourselves.” – KK

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