There is a movement in contemporary Japanese music where the musicians work with samplers and mixers—standard electronic equipment meant to manipulate sound from other sources. But they don't attach guitars or keyboards or anything at all. They use unorthodox techniques (such as plugging the mixer into itself) to conjure feedback and otherworldly hums from the “silent” equipment. The severe minimalism births sounds from emptiness and offers challenging, dynamic works to whatever listener has the patience and pain threshold to take it. Eureka, a challenging new film from Japan, has much in common with this music. Both deal with speechlessness borne of trauma, both construct narratives that are painfully slow by popular standards, and both demand endurance from their fans.
Eureka weighs in at nearly four hours. A shooting spree aboard a hijacked bus leaves the driver (Koji Yakuso) and a teen brother and sister (Aoi and Masaru Miyazaki) too shocked to speak or even interact with society in a normal way. They are the only survivors, and this bond causes the driver to seek out the children after the incident. Eventually they begin a journey toward the sea, assisted by a cousin, but Eureka is more about the sheer experiential weight of its proceedings than fripperies of plot. The film justifies its length with carefully composed sepia-toned frames and an approach to time in step with directors such as Theo Angelopoulos. Eureka ain't easy, but it is momentously unique.