The Whispering of the Gods

January 22, 2011

Germanium no yoru (Japan, 2005)

Christianity gets yet another loving treatment from the Japanese. In The Whispering of the Gods an escaped killer (Hirofumi Arai of Blue Spring) settles down on a Christian farm, only to become a victim of a priest’s sexual abuse.

Debut director Tatsushi Ohmori’s film somewhat resembles Yoshihiko Matsui’s nihilism-classic The Noisy Requiem (1981). The brutality extends from physical abuse to graphic violence and seemingly authentic animal cruelty.

Cinematographer Ryo Otsuka does terrific job. He captures the raw beauty of nature and snow. The result is an extremely disturbing yet beautifully shot film that favors long takes and naturalism.

Ohmori’s religious intentions remain unclear – perhaps there are none. In a Christian country such film would hardly be accepted by the majority of common society. In Japan only a few percent of the population are Christian, Christmas holidays aside (temporary 100% rate). Still, the film only found distribution in Japan after producer Genjiro Arato built his own theater in Tokyo to play the film.

All notoriety adds to the film’s reputation – it’s a soon to be acknowledged punk classic without punk. An unforgettable, partly unacceptable feel-bad movie that emotionally hammers the viewer to the hospital.




  1. You’re right, after watching you feel a bit beaten up emotionally but I think that was the intention from the start, maybe Tatsushi Omori should have started his directing career on a less emotionally draining movie and made this later in his career.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Raku.

    This is certainly a love it or hate it film (and as usual, I somehow manage to be right in the middle). It’s a masterpiece for many, unwatchable to others.

    I do appreciate much in the film, although the animal treatment is regrettable and I think the film kinda drowns the viewer towards the end.

    Aside A Serbian Film, I’ve never felt so physically bad after a film. In comparison most ultra-violent splatter films are easy happy go lucky entertainment because they tend to be so cartoonish and unreal. Whispering feels all too real and packs a lot more punch even without excessive bloodletting.

    btw, Nobuhiro Yamashita seems to be a fan. I saw a photo of him presenting Whispering at the Ueno theater…


  3. For film to be considered an art form I think that films like this are needed.

    I probably won’t watch this again and I agree with your score too, even though you gave a middle of the road score I bet you would still recommend that people watch this right?.

    I’m looking forward to A Crowd of Three and Mahoro Ekimae Tada Benrikan, I can’t wait to see what Omori does with them.

    In regards to Nobuhiro Yamashita being with them in the picture above, maybe The Matsugane Potshot Affair was screening too? auto-translating the cinematopics page there seems to be a bit of discussion about the police.

  4. Yes, certainly. Uncompromising director are what Japanese cinema needs. There’s too much girl and housewife cinema nowadays – you know, those overly emotional TV drama type films where there first a love story and then the boyfriend is dying of cancer, the father is dying of cancer, the dog is dying of cancer… tears and nostalgia… and all of them have identical trailer with a theme song that pops up around 45 seconds.

    With proper warnings, Whispering is definitely recommendable viewing. And I’d love to see Ohmori do something slightly less disturbing because I really liked how he got very close to the characters. The naturalistic feel.

    Matsugane, could’ve been (my kanji reading is nowhere near the level to even try reading that text). I always forget Whispering is a 2005 film.

    Speaking of Matsugane I really like that film. I feel it gets better on every viewing. The characters are good and it’s got the Yamashita feel, but above all, it’s visually a real treat.

  5. You’re right, there are too many terminal illness movies coming from Japan, and that over saturation has probably caused some good movies to go under the radar.

    Matsugane is one I’ve got to check out again, I feel like I may have been tired when I watched it before making me like it less.

    I might actually have to have a Nobuhiro Yamashita movie marathon soon.

  6. The trailer issue is a real problem. Quite often even good films have very bad trailers. Filmmakers like Jun Ichikawa and Ryuichi Hiroki (not in the recent years, but before) made some great films but when it comes to marketing even their movies are sold to the “housewife” audience.

    Good example: The terrible cover art sleeve for my favorite Hiroki film: It’s Only Talk

    Beneath that paper sleeve you actually have the real dvd cover art, which is far superior and more in line with the film’s style.

    But it’s only the upper cover the potential buyers will see. If I didn’t know Hiroki I would never have bought the film based on the upper cover. But the bottom one, that one is very good.

    (ok, maybe this wasn’t the best example since this, too, is a sort of “sickness film”, but it’s a great one. Feels incredibly honest).

    (and I’m not dissing all mainstream cinema. There’s a lot of good stuff too. But sometimes when I’m watching trailers for upcomming Japanese films I just feel like I’m suffocating…)

    Yamashita marathon sounds awesome to me. Ramblers is one of my favorite movies of all time. And speaking of mainstream, I do think Linda x3 is a lovely sweet film.

  7. I’m looking forward to watching A Gentle Breeze in the Village again too (can you believe it’s been nearly 4 years since it was released!) I can’t wait for his latest movie, I want to see it at the cinema!

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