Yanaka (Japanese for “within the valley”) is one of the few Tokyo districts to have remained almost unchanged despite the radical transformations the city has undergone since World War II. A five-story wooden pagoda, however, once rose above the Yanaka Cemetery until it burned down under unexplained circumstances in the night of July 6, 1957. The memory of the fire divides old and young residents in the quarter. For the older generation, the destruction of the pagoda sym-bolizes the downfall of Japanese tradition. Deep in the Valley, Funahashi Atsushi’s moving third film, is a semi-documentary portrait of his Tokyo neighborhood. In two scripted sequences Funahashi questions the idea of a break with tradition. One of these sequences is based on the 1888 novel “The Five-Story Pagoda” by Kōda Rohan, and recounts how the building of this towering wooden construction by a hotheaded young carpenter led to a break with his teacher. In the frame story it is actually the younger generation that is trying to preserve the memory of the past. So it is no coincidence that the ne’er-do-well Hisaki in the contemporary storyline is played by the same actor as the rebellious carpenter Jubei in the Edo era. The time periods flow into each other seamlessly in Funahashi’s film, which is largely shot in black-and-white, and the boundaries between fiction and reality dissolve before our eyes.
by Funahashi Atsushi
with Nomura Yuki, Sato Mayu, Kato Katsuhiro, Ogawa Miyoko