Audiences confine themselves inside ‘Yaneura’

Playwright and director Yoji Sakate and his theater company Rinko-Gun combined dark humor while tackling a Japanese social issue in the film “Yaneura” meaning “Attic.”

The film was originally created three years ago and highlights a problem in Japan called “hikikomori” or “withdrawn,” where teens and adults lock themselves in their rooms, shutting themselves out from the world for months at a time.

Based on a string of 23 different short episodes, actors played their roles in possibly the smallest set created, a four-meter tent-like room labeled as an “Attic.”

Within the fiction of the story, “Attics” were seen as hot commodities and everyone in Japan wanted to get a hold of the ever popular Internet product. However, those who entered the “Attic” found they did not want to leave and ended up losing their minds.

Throughout the movie, audiences experienced fear, curiosity, and suspense as one detective investigates his younger brother’s unexpected suicide. In his quest, the detective suspects the Attic is linked to his brother’s death.

The episodes each varied because characters were portrayed in different time periods and scenarios with one thing in common — everything revolved around actors labeled as “shut-ins” who locked themselves in these tiny rooms. At one point, a male character portrayed a female role, something we hardly see in American movies anymore.

In one episode titled “Kid’s Room,” a 14-year-old school girl refused to make physical contact with the real world and completely stopped attending school. The next scene was graphic and audience members laughed profusely as the boy professed his love for the girl and minutes later, audiences watched him fondling himself.

The film was real and actors played their roles well without overacting. It was impressive to see that they were able to do so in such tight quarters.

The story delved into various topics ranging from paranormal activities, ghosts, demons, homeless people, and suicide, just to name a few.

However, towards the end of the project, the film seemed a bit monotonous around twenty or so episodes. Watching the last few skits felt like the movie was never ending. The story seemed to drag and some audience members were visibly bored. As transitions to new episodes blazed on the screen, several sighs from a few audience members were heard.

Perhaps by introducing new scenes in a different matter, the film would have had less of a dragging effect. The repetitive episodic introductions contributed to the tediousness of the latter part the film.

The director said he pushed himself to do something nobody has done before by creating a confined space for the actors to work in to heighten the limits of the actors’ bodies.

The actors in the film spent a week doing improvisation with the theme of confined space, Sakate said.

Overseas audiences were not at the forefront of his mind when he created the film, and since he currently had no multi-lingual skills, he had to be succinct, precise and clear with his messages.

The Japanese director has been classified as the most socially courageous writer in Japan since he tackled serious social issues.

An audience member asked, “What’s your latest social issue, internationally, for a future project?”

“I had a friend in Iraq who was kidnapped and released,” Sakate said. “The war is the issue at hand,” referring to the social issue he plans to represent in his next project.

Despite the ending of the film, “Yaneura” (“Attic”) was entertaining and fresh since it was different from all the American mainstream films we see today. The set was extremely simple, which allowed the actors to shine. The film was definitely worthwhile.