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Snow Falling On Cedars [DVD] 
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Scott Hicks' screen adaptation of David Guterson's best-selling novel. On San Pietro Island, shortly after the end of World War Two, local fisherman Kazuo (Rick Yune) is on trial for the murder of another fisherman. The hearings are attended by Ishmael (Ethan Hawke), a local reporter who was also the childhood sweetheart of Kazuo's wife, Hatsue. As the hearings progress, Ishmael gradually begins to realise the extent of anti-Japanese feeling which still remains, and suspects that it could affect the course of the trial.
Australian director Scott Hicks's Snow Falling on Cedars is far removed from the character-driven, pure storytelling of his previous movie, Shine, and a comparative plunge into moody atmospherics. Action insinuates itself through the director's determined eye for watercolour composition and free-floating perspective, like random shoots of new growth in an overwhelming rain forest. It's impossible to be complacent as a viewer because Hicks's meditative style paradoxically forces one to locate and make the story happen internally. The approach makes good aesthetic sense in that the story, based on David Guterson's bestselling novel, couches courtroom drama in dreamy textures, and Hicks is determined to reflect that even if it means turning an audience's idea of narrative on its head.
The director gets a lot of help from the weather in the Pacific Northwest: the setting is one of Washington State's San Juan Islands, where rain embraces earth and sky in a singular, introverted personality. There, a Japanese American war hero (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) stands accused of murdering a white fisherman in the years following World War II. His wife (Youki Kudoh) is the former childhood sweetheart and lover of a local newspaperman (Ethan Hawke) whose bitterness over the loss--as well as his helplessness during the internment of Japanese Americans, and the crusading legacy of his journalist father (Sam Shepard)--prevents him from coming to the defence of the accused man. Layered emotions, layered sensations, layered clouds. This is historical fiction of a sort that works best as an experience of time's relativity: flowing, stopping, trickling. Ironically, the film's most commercial element, the trial, is the least interesting aspect, though old pro Max Von Sydow makes those scenes great fun as a wily defence counsel. --Tom Keogh, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The first few opening scenes set the mood for more or less the whole film.
A sort of claustrophobic intensity envelopes the whole story - from the hissing and clattering of the courtroom heating system to the snow that closes in the entire community.
Every character is perfectly drawn almost to the point of understatement - the actors seem to be the people - each performance is beautifully portrayed.
The themes explored are ones that to a greater or lesser degree affect most of us throughout our lives - loss, integrity, loyalty, prejudice, acceptance - all summed up in Max Von Sydow's closing courtroom summation.
Although the film is in colour, with a few notable and powerful exceptions, the overall impression is of a greyness or at best colours that are "washed"out. This is not a failing but greatly enhances the general ambience.
At times the film adopts an almost dream like quality as if the events are flowing through Ishmael's mind in a seemingly random fashion.
It is a film that can be watched many times as various nuances and subtleties become more apparent once you are familiar with the flow of the story.
I did read the book long before I saw the film and for me this is one of those very rare occasions when the adaptation to movie enhances the novel.
If you enjoy films with deep meaning, that celebrate the human spirit and provide hope that doing the right thing, however difficult it may be, can ultimately bring redemption then Snow Falling on Cedars is a gentle masterpiece!
Two children growing up in a small coastal town in Washington state just before the second world war - a boy and a girl - their feelings grow for each other through their adolescence but there is a problem - she is of Japanese ancestry - how does this influence their relationship - and interwoven with that is the cruel internment suffered by her people during the war.
But the central plot of the movie revolves around the death of a fisherman at sea - was it murder or accident - and the subsequent court case and trial of the suspect.
The whole story is complex, deep feelings and emotions interwoven with harsh realities of life - portrayed and told with sensitivity and insight.
I wished there could be a happy ending for everyone - but life isn't like that.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Had visited the town in Canada where this was filmed and wanted to see the result. Wasn't disappointed !Published 8 months ago by Jessiec