Review: Yogoto No Yume (Nightly Dreams): Mikio Naruse, 1933

Scene from Naruse's Nightly Dreams

Silent films continued to be made in Japan through to about 1936, even though recorded sound had been joined with film a decade earlier. Like many other Japanese directors Mikio Naruse crafted Yogoto No Yume (Nightly Dreams; also released as Every Night Dreams) in 1933 as a silent, which enabled him to continue to practise his sensitive and moving art without the constraints of the new technology. In a little over an hour, the film presents the story of Omitsu, a young woman working in bar and struggling to bring up her young son on her own. With grace and hope amidst the poverty, she is surprised and initially hostile when her husband Mizuhara reappears, and rejoins the family unit.

Though he has a clear affection for his son, and repeatedly expresses his desire for Omitsu to leave her job and the milieu in which she works, Mizuhara is unable to find work of his own and emerges as a feckless and somewhat dissolute man, not quite able to bear his responsibilities.

Nightly Dreams is a particularly beautiful account of what feels like a very real and personal human drama. With its social realist look, outdoor scenes, fluid editing and deep focus it is also a very modern film, which reminds you how sophisticated film-making already could be in this period. Even if some of the cutting is at times just a bit too hurried and, for me, the ending too sudden and abrupt, the close-ups of Omitsu weeping with her son, and the subtle way Naruse passes the gaze from husband to wife underscore the delicate touch the director brought, and the remarkable performances he achieved with his actors.

Given the gentle intelligence of the film, it was unfortunate that the screening at the Barbican Centre in London last night didn’t have the music to match. It certainly had the resources: the London Symphony Orchestra performed the new score by Nitin Sawhney, but the colours were wrong and the thumping rhythms hugely distracting. I suspect mine is a minority view: most of the audience responded very positively, but I was left with a feeling that the score was just too insensitive to the film and to the context of early cinema. In a piece in the Guardian last week Nitin Sawhney wrote “Scoring for silent film is a very different experience from conventional film scoring. Then, you need to serve the wishes of the film director and suspend your own ego, to a point.”[1] Though I’d like to hear the score re-worked as a orchestral suite, on this occasion there was a bit too much ego and not enough Naruse.

1. Nitin Sawhney. “Yogoto No Yume as you have never heard it before.” The Guardian. Thursday 25 February 2010.

Further Reading

William M. Drew. “Yogoto no Yume (Nightly Dreams)–Mikio Naruse’s Silent Masterpiece.” Gilda’s Blue Book of the Screen. 27 October 1997.

Chris Fujiwara. “Mikio Naruse: The Other Woman and the View from the Outside.” Film Comment,
September/October 2005.

Alexander Jacoby. “Mikio Naruse.” Senses of Cinema, April 2003.

Keith Uhlich. “Every Night Dreams.” Slant Magazine. 12 March 2006.

Reviewer: Brad Scott