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The Clone Returns Home

Canadian Premiere

  • Japan 2009
  • 110 min
  • 35mm
  • Japanese with English subtitles
Winner: Best Visual Achievement, New York Asian Film Festival 2009
Official Selection, Sundance Film Festival 2009
Official Selection, Sci-Fi-London 2009

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Director: Kanji Nakajima
Screenplay: Kanji Nakajima
Cast: Mitsuhiro Oikawa, Eri Ishida, Hiromi Nagasaku, Kyusaku Shimida,
Producers: Kiyoshi Inoue, Yoshiaki Tago, Wim Wenders
Distributor: Agung


Since a very young age, Kohei has been haunted by the death of his identical twin brother, a tragic occurrence for which he blames himself, even if it was an accident. Having grown up to become an astronaut, he submits to an experimental project before blasting off for another mission in space. Without telling his wife, he’s left his genetic blueprint with the scientists so that, in the case of his death, a clone could replace him in his wife’s life. Once in orbit above the Earth, Kohei is himself the victim of a fatal accident. Following his untimely demise, the scientists race to create his clone. The copy, however, isn’t precisely like the original. Due to a regression in memory, the new Kohei must confront the heavy recollections that traumatized the original as a youth. Thus begins his journey to his childhood home, a strange adventure that will take him beyond the limits of his fragile humanity.

THE CLONE RETURNS HOME belongs to another era, that of Andrei Tarkovsky, when cinema looked to science fiction not as a fountain of eye-popping action scenes and special effects but as a wellspring of reflections on the human condition. Stepping into this anachronistic vision of the future, the audience is enveloped in an atmosphere of mystery, in which reality is constantly confused with dreams. The odyssey of Kohei’s clone is evoked through a parade of enigmatic imagery charged with a symbolism that patiently yet powerfully reveals itself. Making excellent use of silence and tracking shots, director Kanji Nakajima displays an astounding talent for pace and composition, infusing each scene with breathtaking beauty. Seeing this film on the big screen will doubtlessly be recalled as one of the great aesthetic experiences of the year. Actor Mitsuhiro Oikawa also executes a remarkable about-face following his turn as Black Claw in CUTIE HONEY (Fantasia 2004), pulling off the incredibly challenging task of portraying the complex personalities of Kohei and his clones. With its philosophical fusing of the auteur film and the genre film, THE CLONE RETURNS HOME is comparable in many ways with the works of Wim Wenders, who perhaps unsurprisingly served as executive producer. Even if he’s just getting started, young director Nakajima can already be regarded as a master of Japanese cinema, whatever the cinematic category might be.

—Simon Laperrière (translated by Rupert Bottenberg)

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