Synopsis : When her young son Minato starts to behave strangely, his mother feels that there is something wrong. Discovering that a teacher is responsible, she storms into the school demanding to know what’s going on. But as the story unfolds through the eyes of mother, teacher and child, the truth gradually emerges.
Rating: PG-13 (Brief Suggestive Material|Thematic Material)
Genre: Drama, Mystery & thriller
Original Language: Japanese
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Producer: Genki Kawamura, Kenji Yamada
Writer: Yuji Sakamoto
Release Date (Theaters): Limited
Distributor: Well Go USA Entertainment
Production Co: Toho Company
Exclusive Interview with Actress Sakura Ando
Q: The film is divided into three parts with different points of view just like the movie “Rashomon.” What were the elements of the script that drew you into it?
Sakura Ando: I got the offer right after “Shoplifters“, which was before Covid started. I was surprised to hear from Director Kore-eda so soon, and, of course, I had a strong feeling [from ”Shoplifters”] that I wanted to participate in his work again. But it was right after “Shoplifters.”
Even though I had gained a great deal of experience from that film, I thought it was a high hurdle to overcome this time around. At first I declined. I had worked with him once, and since Covid had started at that time, I couldn’t imagine myself filming in that unfamiliar world. But I got the offer again, so I started to read the script. Even then, I still took some time to get back to Kore-era ’s offer.
Q:In the scene at the principal’s office, Saori [played by Mr. Ando] was poking fun at the principal’s nose [played by Yuko Tanaka]. Hori [played by Eita] is eating candy in the principal’s office. Even though the scene was supposed to be tense, it was also very funny, Talk about creating that scene.
Sakura Ando: That scene was my first day of shooting. I met with the director Kore-Eda the day before and we rehearsed the scene. I found myself laughing so hard during the rehearsals. We even laughed the entire time during shooting on set as well.
But this time, we had Yuji Sakamoto’s script, so we worked together with Director Kore-eda. We went through many takes to find the right way to make the film look the way we wanted it to look. This time, the script didn’t change every day like with “Shoplifters.” I basically followed Mr. Sakamoto’s script to see how I could express myself, so I tried a lot of different forms.
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Q: The title of this film, “Monster” is very interesting. There are people who act like monsters in order to protect something, people become like monsters because of something that’s happened to them, and other people who continue to deceive, show monstrous behavior. What kind of feelings do you have about the word “Monster?”
Sakura Ando: It’s similar to what you felt and just mentioned. Each of us really had different feelings about a “Monster.” When I was watching the movie “Monster,” I didn’t feel that anyone was a “Monster” at all. I felt that all living things were beautiful and that there were no “monsters” anywhere. I thought that the human imagination is both terrifying and beautiful at the same time. I think that monsters are created by the imagination. Somehow, I felt something very beautiful about that.
Q: How did you and child actor Soya Kurokawa [who played Minato Mugino,] prepare for the role beforehand? How did you build up your family relationship?
Sakura Ando: I pretty much had the same approach as I normally do with my other co-stars. Of course, we got along well, although I was the mother on the set. In real life I am the mother of a much younger daughter than Minato’s character, so I had no contact with boys that age. I was consciously very careful with Kore-Eda on how I looked with Soya.
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Q: When you worked together on his previous film “Shoplifting,” you didn’t have much time to consult with Kore-eda or even have much conversation. What exactly did you discuss and incorporate into this role this time around?
Sakura Ando: [With this film], we were trying things out rather than discussing them. When we were working on “Shoplifters“we didn’t even communicate about trying things out. Director Kore-eda’s style was to change the script on a daily basis, so rather than discuss the script in a logical manner, I was just standing there enjoying how the expressions would change according to those that emerged on the spot.
This time, however, we had a script, and since it was in that style [of a three-part structure], we talked about experimenting with various styles. We talked about specifics about how we wanted it to look on the spot. For example, we were trying to use movements and other horrifying expressions like in a horror movie; we talked about that, as well as including the cameraman, Mr. Kondo.
Q: In this film, when there’s a fight between students, is it normal to first talk to the student who got into the fight, then to the students around them, and then to the teacher in charge of the student? The school apologizes immediately for fear of “monster parents.” What do you think about such bad habits in the field of education?
Sakura Ando: To make a long story short, I think that each generation should change with the times.
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