Ever since the first trailers of This World Of Ours [Oretachi no Sekai] popped up online, I became interested in the project. They made it pretty obvious that Nakajima was a young director with a definite sense of style and a burning need to get something off his chest. I guess I never actually finished the trailer, because I wasn't quite prepared for what I was given.
I was expecting something along the lines of Hiroshi Ishikawa's work. A subdued, slow and stylized Japanese drama, following the lives of a group of ill-fitting teenagers. And even though some part of This World Of Ours is still grounded in that particular stretch of cinema, the film itself is a lot rawer, less refined and more in your face. It's a seamless blend of Japanese nihilism (think Toyoda's Pornostar) and the more traditional Japanese drama.
This World Of Ours is Nakajima's first film and it didn't pass by unnoticed (even though it's still not listed on IMDb). It won no less than three prizes at the rather prestigious PIA Festival, bringing him immediate international attention. But his victory was quite contested, something not difficult to understand after watching the film. As brilliant as it might be, it's not an easy or comfortable watch.
The film is entirely shot on DV, giving it its raw and crude look from the start. Many people out there dislike the DV look, but for films like these it really works wonders. The film looks wonderfully bleak and desaturated, with many overexposed shots giving it extra flair. The camera work is especially interesting, though often filmed from the hand and with many close-ups, it remains focused and controlled without losing its dynamic feel. Not very unlike Doyle's work in Paranoid Park.
The editing is equally strong (also done by Nakajima), creating a good balance between shock and drama, while never constraining both elements. The film can switch from tender to brutal in mere seconds, without losing any of its strength. An impressive feat for a first-time director.
Though the choice of music itself is pretty conventional, it makes the soundtrack pretty interesting as the music is quite often set in contrast with the scenes it's backing. Many of the tunes are way too uplifting for the themes of the film, though in a strange way it draws an interesting parallel with the nihilistic attitude of the characters. I would've preferred a more original selection myself, but the effect is pretty nifty, even reminiscent of the way music is used in Battle Royale from time to time.
As for the themes and references in this movie, Nakajima takes a big swing at many targets at once. At its core though are three teenagers trying to revolt against the world around them, hitting whatever is in their way. Talk of terrorism, posters of Natural Born Killers and A Clockwork Orange and 9/11 references are all there, but in the end require little attention as they are just part of the idealistic and/or nihilistic vision of the characters portrayed.
Nakajima's writing, only 19 himself when he started work on his film, is not very subtle, lacks a solid world view and busts through a fair few brick walls. Which is exactly how a film like this should be. The film is not only about youngsters trying to find their place in this world, it's a film seemingly made by these same youngsters. It's a crude look at humanity and conformity, brewing with energy and passion, but also revealing the pain and insecurity that fuels these characters.
Nakajima's first film is not for everybody. It combines the rawness of films like Pornostar and even Irréversible with the poetry and drama of films like Tokyo.Sora. As unlikely as it might sound, Nakajima is able to pull it off without any hesitation. The result is an impressively energetic film, with strong dramatic overtones and several kicks in the gut.