Instant Swamp

Insutanto Numa
2009 / 119m - Japan
Instant Swamp poster

Instant Swamp [Instant Numa] is already the fourth Miki film I see in a rather short period of time. His latest film bears all of the regular Miki treats, yet succeeds in delivering another original and creative story. Miki fans will rejoice at the random oddness, newcomers can get a good taste of Miki's earlier work before they start backtracking through his oeuvre.

screen cap of Instant Numa

I quite simply love Satoshi Miki. He must be one of the most stable directors I've come across so far. Even though each film has its very own feel, Miki's unique style links them all and lifts them to a very stable level of loveliness. I can safely sit down for one of his film, knowing that what follows won't be a disappointment and will leave me with a rather warm glow inside. Previously I wrote reviews for Turtles Are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers and Adrift in Tokyo, now it's time to put Instant Swamp in the spotlights.

The film revolves around Haname, a somewhat aimless woman who has considerable trouble finding her place in Japanese society. She has no luck in romance, no luck at work and has some trouble coping with her somewhat dreamy mother. Things take a very strange turn when her mother goes Kappa hunting one day and nearly drowns. Together with her body an old letterbox is pulled to the surface, uncovering a letter revealing the identity of Haname's real dad.

If this all sounds a little loose and incoherent, it is. Every 15 minutes seem dedicated to another little storyline, some unrelated, others key to advancing towards the finale of the film. It's not until the final 20 minutes that you'll have any idea what the title of the film is all about, nor have a clue about the key importance of some very minor details. Coherent storytelling has never been Miki's strong point, luckily he knows how to make up for that in so many other ways.

screen cap of Instant Numa

Visually Instant Swamp is a pleasant film. Miki doesn't have an overpowering visual style, but through some quirky editing and cool camera angles he knows to create a very nice feel for Haname's world. There are a couple of scenes that jump out and deliver more than simply solid visuals, but they are quite rare and don't create an unfitting contrast with the rest of the film.

The soundtrack has that same joyous quality, where it knows to deliver without actually being too much in your face. Looking back all I can say that he falls back to his regular weirdness and dry, absurd comedy. It all leads up to a rewarding ending, leaving you with a fuzzy feeling and a sense of chill bliss. had some pleasant tunes, but none of them are particularly memorable or catchy. Acting is overall strong, with a superb performance of Aso as Haname and a great supporting cast. The acting is pretty understated, which goes very well with Miki's usual style.

screen cap of Instant Numa

The ending is odd, even more so than the rest of the film. The titular revelation is hilarious, what follows is pretty interesting too. It reminded me a lot of the Taste Of Tea ending, sporting a comparable setup and feeling like a true climax. I won't spoil too much, but even though it might be somewhat unrelated to everything that came before, it's definitely worth sitting through the movie.

The first half hour of the film feels just a little less strong than usually the case. Miki's humor is a little simpler and direct, featuring some bad breath jokes I don't really need to see again. From then on, he falls back to his regular weirdness and dry, absurd comedy. It all leads up to a rewarding ending, leaving you with a fuzzy feeling and a sense of chill bliss. Recommended, like all of his other films I've seen so far.