The Island is a film with a realistic and simple story, well-executed by a superb photographer. Unfortunately it becomes as monotonous as the life it portrays, over-long and repetitious if not entirely meaningless.
The tone of the movie is closely akin to traditional abbreviation in the Japanese haiku poetry from. However, the story departs from the familiar "Eastern Western" by taking a contemporary subject, the life of a peasant couple and their two young sons on a small hilly island in the Inland Sea. The island serves them as home and farm, but with one awful reservation: there is no fresh water. Each day must be spent in continuous trips to the mainland to get water for drinking and irrigation.
About two-thirds of the film shows this daily struggle, as the man and woman stagger and stumble up the island carrying their burden to the crops. In rain, in wind, in exhaustion, in mental agony, they courageously carry on. But after the fifth repeat of that same strikingly realistic climb, only a viewer doped up with No-Doz can avoid drowsiness, or even sleep.
When any action intrudes upon the sequence, the change is welcome indeed. Here writer Kaneto Kuroda begins to preach, against the evil landlord, the indifferent doctor, the unsympathetic fishmonger. But the constant struggle is the link as well as the main subject of the film. Each variant scene lies apart like an independent engraving, showing only its momentary effect on the couple's lives.
The use of sound effects and music in place of dialogue is quite interesting, and works well. This comes mainly from the marvelous proficiency of the actors, whenever they are allowed to do anything other than trudge up the hill.
If you too were bored with The Island, the Brattle will present for the rest of the week an indigenous counterpart, Seven Samurai. This rousing epic is the best of its type, and you won't need drugs to stay awake.