The Many Faces of Chika—the only scripted drama ever produced by documentarians Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi—features a fascinating narrative gimmick: in each of the four chapters that comprise the film’s overarching plot, the title character is portrayed by a different actress.
What is the deeper thematic significance behind this unconventional creative choice? Is it intended to symbolize the contradictory ways in which our protagonist is perceived (and, more often than not, objectified) by the men in her life? To literalize the emotional transformations that she undergoes in response to her traumatic experiences? Or perhaps to personify the various identities that she inhabits as she struggles to navigate the treacherous sociopolitical landscape of Japan circa the 1960s and ‘70s?
Honestly, I don’t think that a definitive answer exists—which is, in my opinion, actually preferable: that lingering ambiguity merely enriches the story, inviting speculation and interpretation. Attempting to impose a concrete, one-size-fits-all “meaning” upon a movie as complex and nuanced as The Many Faces of Chika is both reductive and counterproductive; it’s far better to simply go with the flow of its mournful, elegiac atmosphere.