Harmonium has a tremendous amount going for it on a formal level, and there is stuff here - some stellar actorly business, for example - that absolutely shines. That being said: there are some serious problems and they gravely compromise the second half. Clearly a filmmaker upon whom to keep a close eye. That European cinema may be a defining influence is demonstrated by commendable use of the 1.66/1 frame.
Is "Harmonium" a family drama with a thriller's edge, or is it a thriller with heavy does of family drama? Is the whole thing really a religious allegory, with particular emphasis on the concept of karma? I think it's that difficulty to classify the film that makes it such an unpredictable and fascinating watch. It keeps you glued to the screen while it's playing, and keeps you pondering it long after you see it.
Autant la première partie du film dégage une vague et déconcertante atmosphère d'inquiétude tamisée et timorée, parfaitement rendue par le comportement ambigu des personnages, autant la seconde partie, censée se dérouler huit ans après le départ de Yasaka de l'accueillante petite famille, se révèle comme artificielle et spécieuse, avec des séquences d'une tonalité invraisemblable..www.cinefiches.com
Takes a page from the Dardenne Brothers' Le Fils. Not much of a muchness though. While Le Fils upholds, daintily, themes of sublimation & social rehabilitation, anchored on an algorithmic action of the categorical imperative, Harmonium isn't afraid to wade in murky waters, to roil up human flaws & frangibility. Thus it risks the horrific, the Real, where the Dardennes & co. prefer to keep a stiff upper lip.
Modern-day Japanese crime and punishment, Compiling from an ascending tempo of cold brutality with a rare non-evident savagery, and a vicious eviscerating fatalism in its heart, Harmonium is far from expected and soon will be one of the best movies of the year!
p.s. Koji Fukada is one hell of a director to watch!
A very interesting original screenplay written by a director. A new perspective of crime and punishment. A grey perspective. Definitely one of the most interesting films I have watched in 2017 though the direction is not outstanding. Deserving of the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes