Tomoko in Her Bath by William Eugene Smith is one of the most famous photographs of all time. It depicts the naked body of a young girl, an empty gaze is directed upward, the ribs are protruding, the limbs are deformed. Mother holds her in the bath in her arms. Tomoko became a sick nurse as a result of the so-called Minamata disease. In his second feature film, Minamata, director Andrew Levitas (Lullaby) explores the origins of this touching photograph and draws attention to its creator. However, Levitas doesn't really want to choose between a character study and a political pamphlet. In 1971 W. Eugene Smith (Johnny Depp) a nervous wreck.
The renowned photojournalist lives in his darkened New York apartment. Alcohol is his constant companion, at night the disturbing images of his earlier work during World War II keep him awake. He was persuaded to go to Japan by translator Eileen (Minami) and Robert Hayes (Bill Nighy), publisher of Life magazine. In Minamata Village, residents are suffering the effects of devastating mercury poisoning. Smith exposed the political scandal and spoke out against the unscrupulous group Chisso ...
First of all, you have to give credit to Andrew Levitas for not having to resort to classic biopic sets. Everything you need to know about the main character is set in the first half hour, so not every stage of your life has to be re-told. Minamata is more of a snapshot of a passionate, broken person. Dimly lit pictures and suddenly falling scraps of war memories provide a deep insight into Smith's soul.
Johnny Depp, as the main actor, has to break through the real passion! Not only on the physical, but also on the religious level. There is a note on the photographer's door that reads that he should only be disturbed if he can announce the Savior's new arrival. A nice joke at first, until you realize, puzzled, that the movie with the Savior actually refers to its protagonist. One of the best performances by Johnny Depp
Minamata can and should honor the creative journalistic achievements of W. Eugene Smith. But it becomes uncomfortable when Levitas' film is on the verge of transformation. The photojournalist looks like a man who takes all the suffering, who allows himself to be beaten for the welfare of the poor, who takes care of children affected by the disease, and who seems to the Japanese to be a figure of a redeemer. Of course, Smith's accomplishment in this true story cannot be understated, but it would be appropriate to take a closer look at the equally important citizens around him. Oddly enough, they remain without contours, although notably with Hiroyuki Sanada and Tadanobu Asano, some of the most famous and best Japanese character actors were involved.
However, Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp should admit that he manages to combine all the strengths of his long career in one role here. Furious revolutionary, sensitive, broken and con man, cynic - the three-time Oscar nominated actor skillfully and pleasantly subtly plays all these facets up and down from the brilliant, eloquent meeting between him and his film boss Bill does not mention Nighy (“Actually ... love ")!Old friends who quarrel a lot.
Be that as it may, the drama is most impressive when it shows its protagonist at work. The intimacy of photography, the flickering of motifs, the way a moving image on film slowly turns into a hard photograph, how colors change in certain scenes: Andrew Levitas and cinematographer Benoit Delomme (Van Gogh - On the Threshold of zu Ewigkeit) sometimes find strong visual aesthetics for thought above the subject of the photograph. Yet Minamata fails to link the personal drama of the characters to big politics.
If the film is finally about fighting the evil industry, then it is undoubtedly urgent and timely. With environmental pollution, corruption, the silence of political setbacks and the resistance that ensued, it quickly becomes clear why this 1970s material is still so relevant in 2020, but it could have been a little more complicated!A revolution for newbies
Minamata loves to rely on his sentimentality, shows the complaint of parents, backs it up with sentimental music, calls for resistance from the screen, but the real political level remains largely a cliché. Evil industrialists stand in their sterile design offices by the window, frowning eyes, while an angry crowd roars outside the factory, but Andrew Levitas has nothing to show but such stale juxtapositions.