Public Relations Office April 7, 2017
Yukihiro Tsukada, Professor, School of Law
“Here I am, thirty-seven years old, seated in a Boeing 747. The giant plane is diving into a thick cover of clouds, about to land at Hamburg Airport.” (Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami)
When the plane completes its landing procedures, the protagonist mutters “So– Germany again.” Soft background music begins flowing from the ceiling speakers; an orchestral version of the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood.” The melody deeply affects him and a cabin attendant comes by to see if he is OK. He answers that he is fine, pretending to be unruffled. But his mind slips back into his past, where he’s in the middle of a meadow in autumn 1969, soon to turn 20. This is how the novel begins to evolve.
A plane has a good chemistry with sentimental memories. Its increasing and decreasing speed guides passengers gently into sleep. The passengers might lapse into dreams, or dive into past memories, as the “I” of Norwegian Wood does. Is this phenomenon similar to something? Yes, an airplane is like a theater! Darkness, fixed seats and a world of dreams—these aspects of physical restriction set the minds of spectators and passengers free, evoking their dreams.
In the history of cinema, films and planes, or films and vehicles, have long been on close and favorable terms with one another. As you may know, a train was used to mean “motion” at the end of the 19th century (as an automobile was at the beginning of the 20th century). How can you capture the motions of these objects on film? Film, a new medium in those days, was destined to tackle this challenge. It is fair to say that the solution offered everything the film needed to do. Recreating the motions of objects on the screen was regarded as something like magic. In the transition period at the end of the 19th century, early films selected steam engines as their objects. A good example of this is The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station (1895), directed by Auguste and Louis Lumière. The 50-second film depicting just the arrival of a train and the boarding and alighting of passengers astonished the world. Subsequently, while emphasizing motion, films began featuring “emotion,” feelings and subtleties of human nature (as indicated in the movie Kiss in the Tunnel ). By incorporating the element of presenting a story, a film, or motion picture, achieved the position of king of representation media.
Vehicles featured onscreen shifted from the ground to the sky. Planes are now indispensable for films. Although many of the recent flight movies are suspense films, it must be remembered that a plane is a place of encounter. In Love Affair (1994), Warren Beatty and Annette Bening make a fateful encounter on their flight to New York (with the movie being a flight version of It Happened One Night (1934) directed by Frank Capra). Happy moments and happy stories start on a flight.
In film study, research is conducted on a wide range of themes, from film creation to box-office aspects. Although myriad research approaches are available, such as media, representation and culture, the study begins with “motion” and “emotion.” Sentimental and romantic flights are also on good terms with film research.
Profile of Yukihiro Tsukada
Born in Ibaraki in 1971. Specializes in American literature, film study and representation culture theory. Interested in the desires of culture and gender, as well as political science. After fulfilling the doctoral course requirements at the Graduate School of Arts, Rikkyo University, he served as an associate professor at the National Defense Academy of Japan. Took his current position in 2008. Publications include Cinema and Gender – Gender and War in American Films (single authorship, Rinsen Book Co., 2010), The U.S. Represented in Media and Literature (joint authorship, Eihosha, 2009), 911 and the U.S. (joint authorship, Otori Shobo, 2008), and many other works. Has also published many language-related books.