There’s an age-old argument on what the art should be judged upon and what makes it particularly interesting. Is it the skills that the artist has taken efforts to develop or is it the knowledge of the history behind it? Shinya Kawakami’s Last Judgement gets into that argument without exactly reaching to a certain conclusion. His thirty-minute short film deals with two characters who claim their prowess based on similar aspects as mentioned before. And it puts forward many strong points about the misconceptions and struggles as an art-student on the path of becoming an artist.
‘Last Judgement’ begins with its protagonist Seiichi Inaba entering an art institute for their annual exam. As we move along, we realize that it is the most prestigious Tokyo University of Arts that he’s applying for. Within the first few moments, he claims to be able to ace the test with over-confidence. Not much later that we get to know that he has already tried and failed this exam five times in the previous years.
Further, in the exam hall, a female student appears late to the class.
Her body language or her appearance solely give away her idiosyncrasy. With a big and untidy bag on her back, she heads in without being conscious. From her painting, her skills seem just as interesting as her personality. That makes some of the participants to think of her as some kind of prodigy. Meanwhile, her presence adds to Inaba’s anxiety that he was earlier hiding from even himself. After all, he had to be enthusiastic and wilful to pass the test this time, which seems to be his dream from childhood. His father inspired him to pursue it from an early age with the inspirations such as the revered Van Gogh and Michelangelo. Still, his technical prowess seems to be clouded by his arrogance for having abundant knowledge and intellectual insights about art.
On the other hand, the unnamed female applicant who looks like a high-school student has been working relentlessly, as a natural drive to communicate with the world. In the conversation where Inaba gets to know this, she takes a jab at him claiming his art to be boring which clearly implies his lack of any distinguishable personality. Furthermore, from the exercise they attempt together, he finds the answers that he didn’t come to realize before. Probably that was the reason he was hiding from himself or even pulling him back.
As mentioned before, “Last Judgement implies two different views about artistic merit. Even if being an art-scholar is important to better understand the roots and reasoning behind the art, it doesn’t solely endow someone the expertise to become an artist. The film, which tries to say the same, is completely aware of its message. While doing that, it creates a layered character of the protagonist, which is highly commendable.
Inaba, who is pursuing the same course five times, is juxtaposed with the high-school girl who doesn’t even know that the institute she’s applying for is a highly lauded one. Their clashes are often fruitful for Inaba’s growth as a person. And the film shares a clever point while showing her character not caring about a formal education to be accepted as an artist from the world. In short, one doesn’t need certification as an acknowledgment of being an artist. No matter what your stand is about getting a formal education, there’s no denying that being a student of a reputed school doesn’t directly make someone, ‘an artist’.
Speaking about the performances, the acting by both the leads is excellent. Even the supporting cast fit their roles perfectly. Additionally, the film cleverly uses the technique of breaking the fourth wall to express what goes on in Inaba’s mind. It gives an otherwise dramatic film, a comedic touch. The sound design is used for highlighting the feelings of claustrophobia or anxiety quite effectively. Overall, ‘Last Judgement’ delivers most of its punches in perfect timing while showcasing an impressive portrayal of the two artists.