Actually, before we get the opening credits, we get a few more stray bits of information. The first is the title of Two Years Later (I need to go back and fix the previous references to 10 years, I was following the book in that case and forgot that it was different here.)

Two years later, Kufuku is still driving that red Saab. Perhaps more noteworthy — even though we assume the Uncle Vanya performance is in the past, he is still listening to his late partner’s tapes as well. We get this narrative:

Of course … I’m sure … that the truth, no matter what it is, isn’t that frightening.

And then the film cuts to audio tape in a record, then the mouth of Oto, who recites:

What’s most frightening … is not knowing it.

Oto, who started the movie as a spectral image, is now haunting Kafuku completely. We see that he‘s just slept in his car and then wolfed down a doughnut. What exactly has happened to his life in these two years? We next see him check his phone where he’s plotting what looks like an extremely long car voyage to the Hiroshima Arts and Culture Theater.

He places his phone on a dashboard stand, takes a sip of coffee and begins. The titles come on. Kafuku drives through what looks like very pleasant weather, perhaps on an early fall day given the look of the trees. We get our first shots of Hiroshima, which look very lovely, somewhat similar to Vancouver to me, nothing like I remember the city from Renais’ masterpiece “Hiroshima Mon Amour” in the late 50s. Good to be reminded early that the Hiroshima of Renais has no more resemblance to that modern city that the films of Ozu have to modern Tokyo.

He pulls into a garage in the arts center and is greeted there by the theater manager, Ms. Yuzuhara and the literary advisor for the project, Yoon-Su. They are new characters for this film, not a part of the Murakami universe in any way. We now get a bit of exposition. Ms. Yuzuhara explains that this is a two month residency that includes six weeks of rehearsals and two weeks of performance, running roughly from the beginning of November through the end of the year.

They then start leafing through call sheets — audition calls were made throughout Asia for the performance, which will be in several languages simultaneously. Apparently the project has drawn great interest and even attracted some well known performers.

They then explain that, as he asked, lodging has been found an hour away from Hiroshima, which will allow him to rehearse the play (or rather listen to Oto) on the way to work and back each day. Ms. Yuzuhara then lets him know that he will have a driver — and when Kafuku pushes back, explains that this is non negotiable, a previous performer got into a serious accident in a previous production and this is now required of the director as a condition of employment.

Yoon-Su says he is, of course, allowed to test the driver, although the driver is highly skilled. They then leave to meet the driver.

I’ll stop here. After the highly dramatic prologue, this first scene of the film proper is a bit of a breather. Given all that Kafuku has been through in the story, I don’t think anyone minds taking all of the drama out of the chauffeur back story. He doesn’t need a DUI or some legal requirement to get the story on its way, it’s better showing him a little kindness.

The Story Begins