Takeshi Kogahara’s twenty-minute shortfilm, Birdland, takes an almost chilling look into the life of an elderly man named Koji (Shin Furukawa), who lives by himself, save for his caretaker, Ishida (Tomoko Ikunishi), who tends to his needs.
Koji can’t help himself much. His gait is low hanging, his hands frequently jitter and he has trouble sleeping, he wears a diaper, and he also wants to die. One evening, Ishida arrives in time to see him half-awake after a cup of wine. She changes and washes him, and then sets out to dump the trash.
The following moment Koji is by himself is when Birdland transitions from his room, decorated with pictures of nature and birds stapled to his drawers and walls, to memories of walking in a park in the company of his wife, Saki (Natsuko Fuji) who is also wheelchair bound.
Birdland is the latest shortfilm work of its director who, according to the Japan Cuts programming, is also caring for his bedridden grandmother, who also can’t seem to communicate. Pensively crafted and brilliantly colored, Ryo Ishida’s cinematography offers a frightening window into the world of an elderly person in need of care, with an intimate perspective into Koji’s life and love for Saki.
The park sequences are beautifully shot, as are the gripping moments when a slightly younger Koji is with Shin, holding her up as they gaze in the direction of a river flowing. At one point, she slowly gazes at him, takes his hand and uses her finger to write something on his palm. By then, it feels like one of the most heartbreaking scenes of the short as the film nears its end.
Part of Birdland‘s programming elucidates how “…Beyond age and even death, the connection between the two is vivid and all-consuming.” Kogahara is quite apt at accomplishing this, doing so through confronting the all familiar and scary notion of death, and showcasing its beauty beyond the pain and suffering. It’s call carried with brilliant and compelling cast performance, and a heartfelt message that is sure to leave you in a certain state of thought.