Message from KOBAYASHI Bros.September 6, 2011 Tokyo
Creator of “The Neighbor”
Katsuto & Kenji Kobayashi
Director Akira Kurosawa's "IKIRU" was released in 1952. The protagonist works with the city government office as a commonplace bureaucrat. One day, he is diagnosed with cancer and is forced to re-evaluate the meaning of life. This evokes changes in him to start living for others around him. Although this film was made 60 years ago, the theme of considering life within death is something that continues to move audiences in the present, and therefore cements this film's position within film history as one of the greats. This led us to create "The Neighbor" in the hopes to re-assess "life" itself during these modern times.
These past few years, we have started to hear more reports about "child neglect," "solitary deaths of the elderly" and "social withdrawal." It is not unusual for us "to not know what our neighbors even look like." Lives that have been completely severed from any social interaction, and our own choice to turn a blind eye when encountering a calamity. We've realized it's not so much physical illnesses that plague our present society but rather a sense of "loneliness."
In present day, "loneliness" is a much more serious ailment than "cancer." For people to live life without connecting to others is equivalent to having a meaningless job. We consider both to lead to a lifeless existence. That is why we chose to depict the protagonist of "The Neighbor" as a young local government employee who prefers to be alone and does his best not to get involved with others. We had this young man re-consider the meaning of "life" and also got him to action for those around him. The story about a young man evolving to harbor love is exactly what makes up "The Neighbor."
A few months ago, Japan fell victim to natural disasters of a historical scale. People from all over the world came to our aid and even among those living in Japan, these tragedies re-opened our eyes to the importance of helping one another. In "IKIRU" the protagonist discovered life's meaning through "doing something for someone else" as well. And although we came to the same conclusion around the theme of "loneliness," we also believe in hope that lives on within peoples' hearts. "The Neighbor" therefore concludes differently than "IKIRU" and has been put together to incorporate hopefulness. We hope that you will enjoy watching the contrast in the messages felt through director Akira Kurosawa's work from 60 years ago and our film.
In recent years, we'd been watching the news and noticing a rise in things like child neglect, child abuse (some even leading to death), fraud targeting senior citizens, and solitary death, all pointing to the dissolution of interpersonal relationships. A few years ago, the introduction of a public service known as a “baby hatch”—a place where parents who are unable to raise a baby can leave their child—became a hotly debated issue in Japan. We wondered how parents feel about abandoning their child, and how the orphan carries on in life. The idea for The Neighbor was conceived from these observations. It's an adult-oriented allegory about a once-orphaned man and a woman forced to carry a maternal burden, and their journey to confront the lives they'd lived as well as the possibility for renewal. —The Kobayashi Brothers