“Can I help you?”
Racism has many faces, but two of its roots are certainly misconception and fear of the unknown. Nobuyuki Miyake directs a 17-minute short that just highlights the fact.
Beginning with a breakneck pace and constant flashbacks interspersed with what’s happening in the present, “Siren” unfolds like a thriller, as we watch a Middle Eastern man, Abbas, break into the apartment of an elderly man, struggling with him while carrying a knife, and finally picking him up. The scenes feel like an attempted murder, and the visuals, violin music, siren sounds, and the tension that comes with it add to that feeling. As flashbacks show, however, this is an entirely different case, involving an old man’s false assumptions, which are intensified by the language barrier, as the two protagonists do not speak the language of the other, and the subsequent breaking thereof. by a man comes across as truly benevolent.
Both the commentary about racism and xenophobia and the message about people coming together are pretty well communicated here. However, Miyake goes a little overboard, both in the knife-holding “trick” and the reasons behind it and in the actual ending, which essentially presents an unrealistic, fictionalized version of the phenomenon.
Apart from this issue, however, the short flourishes in its visual presentation, especially in the “thriller” part, with Toshiharu Yaegashi’s cinematography, especially in regard to the green hues that dominate the screen, the editing and music resulting in a series. rather distressing sequences, which seem to settle in territories of exploitation. The ending, on the other hand, is rather lukewarm, and definitely on a lower lever than the film’s initial scenes.
The late Masahiko Tsugawa plays the grumpy, racist, scared old man with enthusiasm, essentially carrying the film as an actor, in what seems to be the last role of his life (he died in 2018).
Nobuyuki Miyake wanted to send a message against racism, but the truth is that given the quality of the start, the short would work much better as a thriller, with the first part basically being the one that deems the movie worth watching .