by Ryusuke Hamaguchi drive my car is a stunning exploration of grief, betrayal and acceptance. The loose adaptation of a short story by Haruki Murakami follows Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima), an actor and director, as he mourns the death of his young daughter and screenwriter wife, Oto (Reika Kirishima). Two years after Oto’s death, Yusuke moved to Hiroshima where he would direct a production of Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya”. Upon arrival, he is assigned a silent driver named Misaki (Toko Miura). Over many long drives in Yusuke’s vintage red Saab, the two gradually open up about their individual grief.
Now nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best International Picture, drive my car is a profound masterpiece made all the more spellbinding by its score, written by Eiko Ishibashi. The Japanese multi-instrumentalist and composer is best known for her experimental solo work, which ranges from jazz fusion to imaginative dream pop heard during a recent tribute to a Law and order personage. Like the film’s protagonist, Ishibashi’s score has a cool edge to it, and alongside an ensemble that includes frequent collaborator Jim O’Rourke, Ishibashi crafts a soundtrack as moving as the film itself.
In the film, Yusuke’s theatrical method forces his actors to internalize the text of the play by running through the script without emotion before they are allowed to begin performing. (Yusuke repeats his own lines while driving his car and listening to tapes of Oto reciting the other characters’ dialogue.) This emphasis on careful listening and organic nuance is reflected in Ishibashi’s score, which is structured around variations of two themes, “Drive My Car” and “We’ll live through the long, long days and through the long nights”. The eponymous central theme is set in motion by an initial flurry of percussion and tumbling keys of some thoughtfulness. It quickly evolves into an upbeat, idyllic melody with throbbing strings and the synthetic scream of a melodion. However, this whimsical piece is not the first piece of music that audiences have heard. It would be ” We’ll Live Through the Long, Long Days… (Oto)”, a ghostly ambient track that abandons the melody of the score in favor of stillness, falling rain and the muffled whistle of cars. passing tures.
In the same way that Yusuke suggests that a good driver allows his passenger to relax, Ishibashi’s score, even removed from the context of the film, allows the listener to sit back and enjoy the ride. Some of Ishibashi’s contributions suggest the transport effect of driving in a concrete way. “Drive My Car (Cassette)” opens with a cassette inserted into a turntable and the sounds of ambient traffic before drifting into pensive reverie on the piano. Meanwhile, Yusuke’s theme, “Drive My Car (Kafuku)”, opens with the creak of a lowered seat before turning into rumination. “Drive My Car (Misaki)” also begins with an automobile sound as the titular character opens the creaky Saab front door and turns on the Saab’s ignition. This rendition of the theme incorporates tumbling piano notes, brushed drums, and the steady thud of an electric bass; that such a reserved character is given a warm theme underscores the idea that his wall of ice will one day melt, given the right conditions.