As a definition of pure escapism, Earthquake Bird is a refreshing and peculiar movie starring Alicia Vikander. It’s not exactly romance nor is it a murder mystery although it starts that way. And to call it a slow-burner would be an understatement. This is a no-burner and as soon as you make peace with the fact that nothing is going to happen, it becomes an engaging experience. Produced by Ridley Scott, it features beautiful and sensual cinematography. Carefully crafted sets will take you back in time, to Japan in the eighties. This is the most important thing about it. Its ability to completely immerse you into the life of an American expat living in Japan in the late eighties. The deliberate pacing and focus on emotions really make you if not identify then at least follow Lucy’s life for a couple of weeks.
I’m going to be perfectly honest here, the only reason why I checked out Earthquake Bird is because of Alicia Vikander. I would watch her paint her house and still think it’s a masterpiece. Her career is simply stellar and a true pleasure to follow. Alicia is a Swedish actress who learned Danish for her first breakout role in A Royal Affair. Of course, she speaks English fluently. Here, she speaks fucking Japanese with such confidence and routine that it’s mindblowing. This adds another layer to the immersion game, sucking you further into the story and this surreal world they’ve built. You feel this compulsion to simply submit to this sensual atmosphere and let it take you where it wants. It takes a while to hook you in, hopefully distracting you with appealing visuals.
Lucy Fly is a young ex-pat living and working in Japan as a translator. She works in a large building with lots of other coworkers, translating movies it seems. Suddenly, the police show up at her office and ask for her. The detectives want to know more about her relationship with another young woman who recently went missing. It seems that Lucy knows her and might know what happened to her.
Based on a novel of the same name by Susanna Jones, Earthquake Bird is in no rush to tell its story. There’s a fair bit of romance here, as you might have guessed. A beautiful and lonely girl meets her tall and dark stranger. He’s fixated on his work, emotionless and mysterious. Almost completely opposite of what I would consider a good catch if I was a woman. However, I think I do see the allure of such a man. Also, I have long given up on figuring out why women fall for these, what I would call them, assholes. I remember watching Vicky Cristina Barcelona, featuring a more upbeat version of a similar story. Only instead of brooding Japanese photographer, we have passionate Spanish painter. If only Alicia knew how good of a couple we would have been. At least Fassbender seems like a good guy.
In the end, Earthquake Bird can be defined as an atmospheric character study with an exotic and immersive setting. It kept my attention throughout and with a runtime of just under a hundred minutes, was deliciously refreshing. Sometimes I get so caught up in certain genres or themes that I forget just how many different movies, themes and lives are out there. So, I urge you to perhaps go outside of your comfort zone and check out this movie.
If nothing else, you will have Alicia to keep you company. Or Teiji, whatever you prefer. Speaking of going outside your comfort zone, if you’re up for a darker and more twisted Japanese movie check out Audition. And if you’re willing to go all the way, to dark, twisted, and disturbing corners of the cinematic experience, 964 Pinocchio is waiting for you. Just remember, what is seen cannot be unseen.
And no, there are no such birds that sing after an earthquake.
Director: Wash Westmoreland
Writers: Susanna Jones, Wash Westmoreland
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Kiki Sukezane, Naoki Kobayashi, Riley Keough, Jack Huston, Ken Yamamura, Kazuhiro Muroyama
Fun Facts: The movie that Lucy is looking at the beginning is “Black Rain” directed by Ridley Scott, the producer of the movie.