Review: Transparent, I am (2020)

Courtesy of Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen

The winner of this year’s Grand Prize in the International Competition of Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen is a chaotic yet touching self-portrait in which director Yuri Muraoka examines the nature of her schizophrenia through the lens of the global pandemic.

This is a fragmentary piece of work as Muraoka voices a number of memories. A feeling of emptiness that washes over her in a mobile phone store. Remembrances of medication and lying in hospitals with petulant nurses. Pangs of overwhelming sadness when she recalls her family and their reactions to her at her lowest moments.

The footage that accompanies these memories is a kaleidoscope of different mediums. Mobile video segues into stark 16mm Black and White footage. Archive home video of her family give way to animations. There’s an ever present sense of change, nothing ever standing still. But this change is chaotic, tinged with an edge of mania. With her memories being chiefly those that are sad and despairing, much of the film tips between this mania and a feeling of melancholia.

As we approach the film’s conclusion, Muraoka – herself appearing on camera, wearing the mask that has become the symbol of our current times – reflects on her notion of self and how the pandemic has forced many of us to reflect on our own identity. While the melancholia still remains, there is still a sliver of hope as the possibility of positive change becomes apparent. Discordant footage, much of resembling an art project, is projected onto the mask, turning what is for – some at least – a symbol of oppression and fear into something that reflects the past but also something in which creativity flowers and growth can occur.

Transparent, I Am ends with the line: “It’s okay. It’s going to be okay”. While the realities that the film deal with are harsh and often painful, with Muraoka indulging in a self-reflection that is often brutally raw, this final line does reveal the vein of hope that this film ultimately offers. While Muraoka’s feeling of transparency – being invisible to the world around, of not mattering to anyone – is still present, the film is a paean to the power of a family strong enough to try and keep those feelings from overwhelming someone they love. And let’s not forget the inherent irony buried within the film itself – despite her feelings of being invisible, the very act of making Transparent, I Am reveals Muraoka in all her glory to the world and this – ultimately – transforms it into a triumphant affair.

Original title: 透明な私 (Tomeina Watashi)
Year: 2020
Runtime: 11’36”
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Black & White, Colour
Produced by: Nonoho Suzuki
Written/ Directed by: Yuri Muraoka
Illustrations: Nemu Suzuki