Inland Sea is a documentary by Kazuhiro Soda about a small town in Japan rapidly aging and disappearing. A town forsaken by the modernization of post-war Japan, this small community is on the verge of being forgotten. This is a beautifully simple look on life in this small town told in stunning black and white photography. Inland Sea was fascinating to watch and experience a culture so unknown to myself. Director Kazuhiro Soda puts you in the shoes of the people inhabiting this small community. The sound design was invading, I heard every wave crashing against the fishing boat, every stroke of the blade removing the skin of the fish, the detailed sound of the footsteps transferring from different textures on the ground. I felt every movement.
The camera lingers long on each task and person the film follows. It never cuts away until we see the full effect of the amount of work that is put into every task. I felt I was on the boat early in the morning before sunrise bringing in the catch of the day. I could feel the cool breeze coming off the shore or the tight environment of a local shop. Never have I seen a documentary that so well captured a place and its culture quiet like Inland Sea had. I felt like I was there experiencing everything with the crew filming.
Inland Sea was very calming. It was oddly meditative. While watching and listening to the incredible sound design, I found my heart rate lowering, my breaths would sync with the crashing waves. I felt so at peace during the runtime of this film. It was a very different experience than I usually have with film. I was glued to my screen and yet felt so at ease and home while watching it. The black and white photography was a beautiful choice to film in. It captured the essence of the town and the rich culture it has better than if it was in color. It set it up so clearly and plainly, that the beauty of the environment and the people were all the colour this film needs.
The people of the film were honestly so delightful. I enjoyed every minute I spent with them, seeing them do their everyday tasks in such detail. Most of them were funny, they all felt candid and real. I am not used to this kind of film making, so experiencing a quiet study about normal people going about their day was a little odd. I don’t mean that in a bad way, I just mean that I was curious to get to know these people who have invited us into their home.
This is a lengthy film and the runtime of just a little over 2 hours does it hurt the film a little bit. As much as I love the study and the long periods of time spent on each person, I felt it could have been tightened up a few minutes here and there to have more of an impact as I did find myself wandering off in my own thoughts if a scene was dragging on a little too long.
Inland Sea is a simple, poetic study on a town and the beautiful people who live there. The cinematography was gorgeous and captured the town perfectly. The slow pace and drawn out camera shots linger on every moment with the people to where I really got a feel for how they live. The sound design was meditative and soothing at points. Inland Sea a beautiful look at simple life in a town that I’m not sure will be around 20 years from now.
Inland Sea is out now on Digital on Amazon, InDemand, Hoopla, Vimeo on Demand, FANDANGO