One cold winter’s day, a twenty-year-old Australian university student met a sixty-two-year-old Japanese film, Gojira. It was not love at first sight. It wasn’t even love thirty minutes into the meeting. The student was heard to whisper, “If I only had a half-hour to live, I’d put on Gojira, because watching it feels like an eternity.”
That student was me, just over a week ago, wondering what I had done to deserve watching the treacherous, boring film that Gojira is. My opinion of it changed along the way, however. I’m not a massive fan of watching movies that aren’t in English. Mostly because you have to pay attention to what’s actually happening, rather than staring blankly at a screen with no intelligible thoughts running through your head.
Once I found my autoethnographer’s hat (there was one underneath everyone’s seat. It was a blessing, a gift – it was like being on Oprah), I realised I had to analyse my personal experience to understand the cultural experience (shout out to Ellis, Adams, and Bochner (2011) for the insight). I was worried, initially, because studies into culture usually end up with white people pointing at people who are culturally different to them and shouting “HEY, LOOK AT THESE WEIRDOS!”. Ellis et al. explained that autoethnography is actually more socially conscious and “gives way for different points of view”, and generally, it’s more accessible. So basically Autoethnography > Ethnography.
When I endured Gojira, here’s a few things I noticed:
- The couple that were together at the beginning of the movie continue to be together at the end of the movie, which was very strange for my Hollywood brain to get around, but quite pleasing afterwards. The couple are also culturally different to how Australian couples are – albeit, they’re probably different from how modern Japanese couples are, but I haven’t seen any modern Japanese films to have an informed opinion on that. The couple in Gojira hardly have any physical contact, which is different for Australian cultural norms. The couple does not seem cold to one another, but more like it is not their place to display any affection or grieve in each other’s arms.
- The film doesn’t have a lot of spoon-feeding for the viewer (as opposed to Hollywood where there’s a voice over at the beginning of half their modern films saying ‘my name is John Doe. I’m the protagonist and leading man.’), although it did become clear later on that there was indeed a leading man, a damsel, a mad scientist – archetypes that you can’t escape across culture and time.
- War and fear leave scars and the arts are always there to represent the mood of the citizens. This is clear throughout the film with the constant reference to warfare and the human condition. In all honesty, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the film if it didn’t have the message of “We need to stop nuclear testing. We need to stop this madness” at the end.
All up, I enjoyed examining the film from my perspective. I’m looking forward to my future romantic encounters with Asian media.