Japan’s infamous Aokigahara played host to Natalie Dormer and Co. for underwhelming thriller The Forest late last year. In swapping psychological thrills and spills for profound drama, director Gus Van Sant (Paranoid Park) has teamed with Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe for The Sea of Trees.
Due to enter the competition at Cannes come May, today brings forth the first English-language trailer for Van Sant’s latest (prefaced by a Japanese message from Watanabe), placing McConaughey and Watanabe in the shoes of Arthur Brennan and Takumi Nakamura, respectively.
In Japanese culture, Aokigahara is considered a powerful open-air haven of spiritual energy. Situated at the base of Mt. Fiji, The Sea of Trees, as it is known locally, is also the place where people go to commit suicide, and that’s exactly what McConaughey’s despairing Brennan plans to do.
Struggling to come to terms with his wife’s ailing health – played by Naomi Watts – the snippet above showcases his conflicted character embarking on a seemingly one-way trip to Aokigahara, though it’s only when he stumbles upon Watanabe’s lost Takumi Nakamura that he begins to reflect on his life and, ultimately, reconnect with his wife.
Powerful swells of orchestral music may threaten to drown The Sea of Trees in cliché, but there are signs of a raw and guilt-ridden performance by McConaughey anchoring the tale, with Watts and Watanabe also shining. It’ll open in Japan on April 29, with a US release date still to be finalized.
It’s love and loss that lead Arthur Brennan, across the world to Japan’s Aokigahara, a mysterious dense forest known as The Sea of Trees lapping the foothills of Japan’s Mount Fuji – a place where people go to contemplate life and death. Arthur enters the depths of the forest and loses himself beyond the guiding ribbons threaded through the trees by many before him. Having found the perfect place to die, Arthur encounters Takumi Nakamura, a Japanese man who also appears to have lost his way. Unable to leave Takumi behind, Arthur invests all of his remaining energy into saving Takumi and returning him to safety. The two men embark on a journey of reflection and survival, which affirms Arthur’s will to live and reconnects him to his love with his wife.