Japan Cuts added a surprise screening to this year’s lineup: The Day of Destruction, directed by Toshiaki Toyoda (who also submitted Wolf’s Calling to the festival’s short film showcase). I simply couldn’t resist the urge to watch the movie on the day of its theatrical release in its native country!
I won’t bother dissecting the finer details of the story, which is minimalistic to the point of near nonexistence. You could accurately describe it as an unconventional twist on the kaiju sub-genre that omits the giant monster, but considering the rich subtext (which meditates on such themes as spirituality, the conflict between nature and technological progress, and the dehumanizing effects of mass industrialization), that summary feels woefully reductive—and, in any case, the plot is of secondary concern. This is, first and foremost, a sonic experience: the sublime sound design immerses the viewer in the setting with a constant assault of ambient noises, including the crunch of leaves and gravel underfoot, the chirping of birds and crickets, the rumble of shifting earth, the howl of heavy wind, the gentle ringing of a monk’s bell, and the low-frequency drone of tinnitus. The anarcho-punk musical accompaniment further contributes to the oppressive atmosphere, creating a sense of energy and urgency that propels the narrative momentum even more than the onscreen action. The scant 57-minute running time offers The Day of Destruction precious little breathing room to develop its very big ideas, but its arresting stylistic presentation still manages to make an indelible impression.