I’ve recently had the pleasure of catching the film “Honnouji Hotel” at a Japanese film festival held at the National Museum of Singapore. It truly is a breath of fresh air to watch films outside of Hollywood as you can really see a very different artistic style which is instantly distinguishable from Western filmmaking. Read on below for the Honnouji Hotel Review!
Plotwise, our main character is engaged but is however unsure about the marriage and in fact, about what she really wants to do in her life. She is somehow transported back to feudal Japan, a day before the famous Honnouji incident where Nobunaga Oda is “killed” during a rebellion against him. I say “killed” because his body was never actually found. The incident takes place at the sprawling Honnouji Buddhist Temple which was burned down during the incident. Nobunaga Oda is seemingly the exact opposite of our main character, soon to achieve his dream of unifying the nation and extremely cocksure about himself.
The pacing during the first half can be quite slow and essentially grinds to a halt whenever she is transported back to the present. The first half really focuses heavily on themes of comedy and drama while the latter half is where the film really picks up and gets more intense, feeling a bit more like a science fiction film. The humor is very Japanese in nature and if you are unaccustomed to it, you might even think that it is bad acting. Although the “magic” of how she goes back in time is never quite scientifically explained, it is not the gist of the film and is akin to the magic-realism elements found in some of Haruki Murakami’s novels.
I quite enjoyed the dynamic between the 2 lead characters and how she brought him back down to Earth, to his roots to let him see whether he was affecting real change and doing it in in a morally upright manner. On the other hand, he let her know that she should dream big and not let anyone hold her back. The character growth might not have been the smoothest I’ve seen portrayed but it made sense and was believable enough. You do come to care for the characters quite a bit, even some of the neglected side characters. I especially liked her fiance’s dad and Ranmaru was also quite funny.
I have to say, the cinematography is actually very interesting in this film. It has many creative scene transitions and the angles just feel so different from the usual shots we get from Hollywood films. The film just feels all the more distinct for it although I would not say that it is distinctly Japanese it just feels…different, fresh.