Noemie Nakai’s ‘Touch’ is a breath of fresh mountain air, setting itself apart in more ways than one, to create its own niche. A visual poem punctuated by orchestral music and open to interpretation by the viewer, Touch is unorthodox and heartbreakingly beautiful.
We spoke to Noemie about her film, career in cinema and creative process.
Q. What was the thought process behind Touch?
I wrote ‘Touch’ when I was going through a breakup. I was trying to figure out how to let go of a relationship, while paying homage to it. And also, if it was ever possible to find closure from someone I still loved. I had already done short films with a more traditional narrative. I wanted to try something completely different, to explore the idea of ‘memory’ and ‘letting go’, without relying on dialogue. Every time I remember a relationship, I have moments of nostalgia when I cherish what we had, but also painful moments when I wish I could erase all those memories.
I wanted to see if I could portray these feelings on film. The point was never to deliver a well put together story with a straightforward ending. I wanted each viewer to experience different things, to go on different paths, having the woman go up and down the mountains was a tangible way of mapping her emotions. In some way, nature became the topography for her journey toward closure.
Q. The films you make are intensely imaginative, where do you draw inspiration from? How does the creative process that follows look like?
I have the worst memory when it comes to films. I can never remember what happens even in my favourite films, or books and plays for that matter. I am always baffled by people who quote entire scenes by heart! What I do remember though is a strong feeling, the films that impress me lodge themselves into my gut, staying with me for days on end, irrespective of the story or characters.
That’s how I would like my own films to be. I usually start writing around a feeling I’ve had: worry and tenderness for a granny crossing a street or nostalgia and joy when sunlight is reflected on a rooftop. Then I make a playlist of songs that belong to that world, based on what the songs make me feel, I start writing.
Q. You moved to London in 2018, how has your career in cinema changed because of it?
I grew up in Japan and while I love my country, the unspoken rules and norms one is supposed to abide by, made it frustratingly difficult for me to grow as an artist. As an emerging filmmaker, I was hungry for knowledge and passion. I wanted to rub shoulders with people from very different paths, have my mind blown, take creative risks and explore alternative ways of making films, but all of this felt impossible in Japan. The independent film community there is incredibly small. There are barely any programmes supporting young artists, very few events to meet people and only a handful of places to hang out with similar minds.
London, on the other hand, is a constant outpouring of creative inspiration, incredible energy, and people who push creative boundaries. Ironically, most of my films are set in Japan, but I needed to physically get away from Japan to understand what kind of films I wanted to make, and to find my voice as an artist.
Q. How do your projects in 2020 look like, what’s next?
I am developing my first feature about an elderly Japanese mother. It will be packed with humour and very different in terms of tone to all the work I have done before. I started working on it before the pandemic, and I am so happy I didn’t pick something too depressing to work on.
The world is already quite horrendous as it is!
Touch will be screened next at the ‘Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2020’ on 21 September, you can watch the trailer here.