Japan’s Kore-eda: sexual identity not the focus in film ‘Monster’

By Alicia Powell

CANNES (Reuters) – Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda said he did not want to focus on sexual identity in portraying the relationship between the two schoolboys at the centre of his latest film, “Monster.”

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“The age that these children are at is an age where their sexual identity is maybe not fully… they’re not fully aware of it at this stage,” Kore-eda told Reuters on Thursday, the day after the movie’s premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

The well-received film is competing for the Palme d’Or, the festival’s top prize.

Earlier Thursday, Kore-eda told journalists he did not think the story should be viewed as portraying two boys who have growing feelings for each other, as suggested in some reviews.

“I didn’t want to focus in on that so much, I didn’t want to think of it as a special kind of relationship,” he told Reuters.

“I thought more (about) if I managed to show the feelings and the pain of your really good friend, the one person who understands you, moving away, and then creating that distance.”

The director said he consulted with an organization that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer children after seeing the script written by Yuki Sakamoto.

“Monster” is told in non-chronological order in three parts – from the perspective of single mother Saori, her son’s teacher Hori and her son Minato – as a budding friendship between Minato and another boy at school, Eri, leads to a series of misunderstandings that reach a climax during a storm.

For “Monster” Kore-eda once again teamed up with Sakura Ando, who starred in his 2018 Palmes d’ Or winner “Shoplifters,” and who portrays Saori in the new film.

After its premiere at Cannes on Wednesday, the movie received a six-minute ovation.

“It was incredible, it was like the feeling of, like, an earthquake,” said Ando.

(Reporting by Alicia Powell; Writing by Miranda Murray; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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