On the occasion of the Blu-ray DVD release of “Children of Time”, meeting with director Makoto Shinkai. A filmmaker who has already been compared to Miyazaki and who, despite the triumph of “Your Name”, shows great humility.
AlloCiné: Les Enfants du temps evokes the meeting of two teenagers against the backdrop of a meteorological phenomenon. Where did this idea come from?
Makoto Shinkai: There are several reasons that prompted me to make this film. Most important was my desire to talk about climate change, not only in Japan but around the world. Every year there are more and more climatic disasters. I told myself that this was a subject that would interest everyone.
Your previous film, Your Name, was a huge success. How is this now affecting your career? I imagine that you have more resources for your films and that you are asked a lot.
Success has indeed changed a lot of things. Let’s start with the negative: I have less freedom because I feel like I’m constantly being watched. My face is now known in Japan and the press sometimes says anything about me. Obviously, there is also a lot of positive in this new situation. It was I who created Les Enfants du temps and presented the film to a production company. The success of Your Name has indeed allowed me to have more budget. The Japanese distributor has chosen a favorable release date, that is to say the summer holidays, with a lot of prints and screens, while this story is not necessarily happy, let alone for the inhabitants of Tokyo. I also had more creative freedom.
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Hina’s character is a “sun girl”, a sort of priestess capable of changing the weather. Does it find its origin in any legend?
The “sun girl”, or “rain girl”, or even “sun boy” is something that is said a lot in Japan. It doesn’t make much sense, just if the weather is nice and you are there, you will be said to be a sun girl. If I am there and it rains often, they will say of me that I am a man of the rain. This is obviously unfounded but it is what is often said. It’s like the horoscope. I thought, “what if a girl constantly brings sunshine, what will happen?” This is how the story was born.
You very often stage the meeting between a young boy and a young girl.
It is true that my films are about teenagers who meet, without necessarily having a love story between them. For me, it is a meeting between two people where each becomes essential in the eyes of the other. This experience is important in building a person because it often determines the rest of life. That’s why I have this approach in my stories.
Another constant in your cinema: the figure of a solitary and marginal hero.
I don’t have a lot of friends myself, I don’t spend a lot of time around people. I make animated films which, to be honest, are not essential in life. Family, love, sport … are often more important to many people. But there are people like me who need these kinds of films. I want to support them with my work. When I was a teenager, I tell myself that I was saved by some animated films that I saw.
How do you see current Japanese animation cinema? Which directors do you feel close to?
The animation director I admire the most is Hayao Miyazaki. As for Japanese animation cinema, I have no idea (laughs). I don’t feel like I belong to this world of Japanese animation. I started making self-produced films, all by myself, short films. I have never worked in a classic animation studio and I have not had a director who acted as a master and who taught me the trade. I feel a great distance between the Japanese animation industry and myself. I admire some Japanese animated films but only as a spectator. I know some directors but they are not my friends. In any case, none of them are very close to me. I feel far from this world.
I don’t feel like I belong to this world of Japanese animation.
And this despite the success of Your Name?
Obviously, I work in this environment but I do not have the feeling to be able to represent it. My career is very atypical, I did not follow the usual path of animation directors. This is why I feel on the fringes of this industry, my way of making films is very different from the classic way. It’s a coincidence that my films have met the expectations of the public. I find that incredible. My greatest pleasure in this job is meeting the public and communicating through my films. Since the success of Your Name, I have been asked more and more, I receive awards, I go to festivals, but I still feel very uncomfortable because I have to pretend I belong to this industry.
Interview in Paris on December 11, 2019. Thanks to Aurélie Lebrun and Emmanuelle Verniquet. Thanks to Shoko Takahashi for the translation.