There Was A Father, Scene 3115

The father and the son visit the small hot-spring resort to spend a weekend.

From what I can gather, the location is Shiobara Onsen in Tochigi prefecture. I was not able to identify the exact location of the inn and the hot spa. In any case, the visit to a hot-spring resort plays a pivotal role in Ozu’s films. For example, in “The Flavor of Rice Over Green Tea”, Taeko and her friends visit the (very expensive and luxurious) hot-spring resort in Shuzenji and have fun. In “Tokyo Story”, the resort is the least pleasant place for the elderly couple.

Japanese love hot-spring resorts (Onsen), especially when they provide tranquility, good food and relaxation. There are probably hundreds of “Guide to hot-spring resorts” shows on TV every year (quick consult on TV schedule for major networks tells me more than four such shows in this week only), numerous travel guidebooks and thousands of tour packages. The volcanic nature of the land provides more than ample number of such hot springs with a variety of minerals as “healing ingredients”. Some of the resorts are located in remote areas, requiring many hours of travel from major cities. This, in turn, creates a sort of “Shangri-La” atmosphere, appealing to many connoisseurs of the Onsen. Other Japanese filmmakers also stage their drama in such resorts to create the distance from the society. In Naruse’s “Floating Clouds”, Ikaho Onsen provides the mechanisms to play out the story of sex, jealousy and ego. The resort in the mountains, distant from Tokyo, liberated the mind of the kept woman, only to end in miserable loneliness in Hiroshi Shimizu’s “Kanzashi”.

There Was A Father, Scene 3095
To convey the flow of tranquil time in such a space onto screen, Ozu timed and calibrated the scenes with the extraordinary care to minute details. The tempo is deliberately slow but not sluggish. You will notice many of the shots last longer than the rest of the film, and shots of the empty spa, the empty room and the river mark the punctuations. Upon this leisurely timed continuo, another layer of suppressed hope is played out. The son brings up the idea of living together, which his father flatly refuses. Then, we see the grownup son behaves as he did when he was a kid. His head sagged, his eyes lost focus, and his lips were tightly sealed with cries of lost hope never uttered. And this forced silence lingers through the next morning, fishing in the river to their departure, parting. Despite of emotional dissonance, the sequence flows as if you taste a cup of green tea in a quiet den. The precession of black and white spectrum, evenly distributed, is as quiet.