Watch an Exclusive Clip From Cult Japanese Film The Extremists’ Opera
Watch an Exclusive Clip From Cult Japanese Film 'The Extremists’ Opera'
In a film based on her semiautobiographical novel, Japanese actress and cult theater director Junko Emoto tells the story of an all-female theater troupe.
The Advocate: Where does this story originate from?
Junko Emoto: The film is based on the novel, Kokan, that I wrote 10 years prior to filming The Extremists' Opera. Kokan is semiautobiographical, based on my 10 years of experience working in theater. Running parallel to my passion for the theater, there was also always romance. I still do not know if my plays existed because romance existed. My protagonist is somebody who rushes forward greedily trying to satisfy both urges and is so completely consumed by these passions that there is no room for reflection.
Why do you want to tell this story?
Personally, in creating plays, I have hurt my friends and collaborators many times, and I have often taken selfish actions towards those whom I held romantic feelings for. But I always forgave myself by saying that it was all "for the sake of the stage." If everything really was forgiven for the sake of the stage, morality would break down. Not only on the stage but in many areas of society in which people have to live together.
Those who become too absorbed in their passions must pay a heavy price. They may be called failures in relationships or even possibly destroy what is human. But if that heavy price is feared, people won't be able to be consumed by their passions. That is also disappointing.
The film's protagonist is an example of somebody who pays the heavy price fully. What you take away from this film will depend on what you think about the protagonist and her actions.
No matter how engrossed you become in your passions, in the end, you must take responsibility. So I want young people to be extremely passionate. For me, this film demands me to contemplate how to make time for my passions in my life as I grow older.
Tell us the uniqueness about this female-only theater group.
In our theater group, when the percentage of people in relationships was high, things ran smoothly. When it was low, the atmosphere was cold. For the girls, it seemed that keeping a good balance between theater-making and being away from the theater was good for them. It didn't work when the theater was too strong and overwhelming. It was important to have time to do laundry or cook or else they would exhaust themselves.
Are there a lot of lesbian cultural groups in Japan?
First off, there are plenty of people who will not come to see a play the moment they find out that there is homosexuality involved. Then there are those who will come to see a piece by homosexuals and view it with prejudice. There are many of them.
While the numbers seem to be increasing, there are also a limited number of people who come to see a piece because they are interested in the fact that it is created by a homosexual person. There is really only a handful of people who view the work without caring about the sexuality of the person.
As a result, in Japan, there are few artists who publicly state that they are gay or lesbian. This is because by going public, they risk doing unnecessary damage to their work. In this sense, art in Japan is still dominated by commercial desires and is not seen as something valuable in society.
I wish for a society in which artists can create work regardless of their sexual identity. Japan remains a society in which homosexuality is regarded as a special case, and publicly stating your homosexual identity can cause you to feel uncomfortable around others. And artists who fear that their work will be viewed with prejudice will not come out publically. But sometimes there are artists who willingly state their homosexuality in public if it means that doing so will help others who are struggling in life with their homosexual identity.
In my experience, I have been inspired by and have gained courage from artists who have continued to create while stating their homosexuality to the public.
The Extremists' Opera will premiere at Japan Society's JAPAN CUTS Festival in New York City on July 19. Find more information here.
Video credit: The Extremists' Opera (c) King Records