Alan G. Chalk Guides to Japanese Films
Lesson 8: Sorekara (And Then)
Reading: Sorekara (And Then), 1909 novel, Soseki
Film: Sorekara, 1985, Morita
Suggested grades: 12 and college
The conflict between "giri" and "ninjo" (between duty or obligation and personal feelings), the core concepts of Japanese social and moral order; also, from an existential perspective, the struggle of the individual to find personal meaning in his life and to act upon it.
In college he had loved Michiyo, the sister of one of his friends, but he had never openly declared his love for her. When another friend asked him to help arrange his marriage to Michiyo, Daisuke set aside his feelings and helped the couple. Now five years later they return to ask his help again. Finding Michiyo in the midst of a hollow marriage and in poor health because of the death of her only child, Daisuke realizes he still loves her.
The novel and film deal with this love relationship, yet it is not a passionate affair. There is no sexual dimension, not even an embrace or kiss. It is a love of restrained lovers, constrained by their natures, situation, and society, a love felt deeply and conveyed only in glances and hesitant, reaching words.
To declare his love for Michiyo, Daisuke must achieve self-knowledge. He must decide who he is and what he wants in his life. And to do this he must rebel against his father and society, against his defined duty and responsibility to his family and the moral-ethical codes of Japanese society. Finally, he must act in the face of ambiguity and uncertainty. In declaring his love, he also declares his independence and individuality; he is free to do and be what he wants, but it is a freedom with terrifying consequences.
If Daisuke and Michiyo are ever to be together, they will be alone together. They cannot know how they will survive in love and life. There is only the promise of love and the ambiguous future implied by the title: And Then.
However, even if the film or video are not available,
it is still possible to teach Sorekara as literature
with a visual
style. While Kokoro seems to be considered as Soseki's greatest
work, and Botchan one of his most accessible for
can provide remarkable insight into both Meiji and modern-day Japanese
society. As Morita wrote in explanation of why he made the film, "The
modernization of Japan, which started after the 1868 Meiji Restoration,
had progressed by the 1910s and the imported capitalism had
begun to cause
deterioration in Japanese society. ...Daisuke's life style is similar to
the indolent ways of contemporary youth and the idealism of
Each character in the film (book) has something in common with people
today." A question which should provoke considerable student discussion
is regarding Soseki's and Morita's attitude toward Daisuke:
are they criticizing
him, as a weak man, wasting his talents and his life, unable
to act properly
in terms of his responsibilities to his family and society? Or do they
sympathize with him as a man ahead of his time, in conflict
with his family
and society as he attempts to define himself as an individual
of his own feelings, life, and destiny?