by Kazuhiro Soda
In my previous documentary film CAMPAIGN, there is a scene where
volunteers gossip about a "psychotic woman" standing right outside the
election campaign headquarters in Kawasaki, Japan.
"See that woman standing across the street? She's psychotic. When she
was still sane, she had long hair and big tits. She called herself
the Marilyn Monroe of Kawasaki," they say.
As seen in this conversation, "psychotic people" are often the subject of
curiosity, excitement, and ridicule, among healthy people. They are
not considered to be fellow human beings but some kind of creatures
from another world who occasionally appear in front of us. There
seems to be a transparent curtain that divides healthy and mentally
ill people. Most healthy people see the world of mental illness as
irrelevant to their lives.
But I have been feeling that there's something wrong about this
situation. When I was a college student, I myself felt sick and
decided to go to a mental clinic, where I was diagnosed with "burnout
syndrome*." Even after I recovered from the syndrome, there were
several times when I almost became sick because of too much stress. I
also have some friends and colleagues who actually became mentally
ill and even committed suicide. In fact, because modern society is
filled with pressure, stress, and the sense of solitude, nobody is
immune to mental illness. Thus, it is quite dangerous that mental
illness remains a taboo and that most people turn their eyes away
from the subject.
Therefore, in my documentary MENTAL, my aim is to get rid of this
invisible curtain, not by sending political messages, but simply by
observing. The most important attitude for me as a filmmaker was to
look straight with my own eyes and my camera at the world of patients
without any preconceived or fixed ideas, without labeling them as
"the weak," "the dangerous," or even as "the great." In order to do
that, just like in my previous film CAMPAIGN, I tried to shoot as
freely and spontaneously as possible without preparing anything
In the editing, I did not use any narration, super-imposed
titles, or music, so that I can show the complex reality as it is,
avoiding stereotypical simplification. I also tried to stimulate
the audience's active observation, leaving lots of room for them to
freely interpret what they see on the screen. In addition, I tried
to recreate the time and space I experienced so that the audience
will feel as if they visited the clinic and saw these patients
MENTAL has no "message" nor "statement" nor "conclusions." Rather, I
want to make a movie that is as far away as possible from propaganda.
It would be an immense pleasure for me if the viewers could come up
with their own observations, thoughts, and questions, while they
watch MENTAL, and afterwards.
* burnout syndrome: physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or
stress: high levels of professionalism that may result in burnout.