Conclusion: Accepting Subjectivity, Fictionalising Reality
Still Walking, in essence, seems to suggest that the depiction of an unobserved reality is only allowed in fictional filmmaking, and Kore-eda's practices do, in a certain way, confirm this. His documentaries have more in common with subjective accounts, detective stories, and Citizen Kane than with the emotional purity found in After Life or Still Walking. Indeed, Tony Rayns highlights the unreal aspects of his documentary narratives, especially Without Memory, when he says that 'little Sci-Fi is as strange or disturbing'. On the other hand, Kore-eda's fictional films play with what we consider to be imaginary, with After Life presenting our own interiority - memories, dreams - as emotionally true, yet in many ways fabricated.
Likewise, Still Walking, about which the director has said 'the emotions are autobiographical' (Erickson, 2009), presents a compelling approximation of real life that significantly rejects many of the formal strategies that fiction requires, attempting to mimic how we make meaning through reference, relation and resonance. In his films, in particular those that have been discussed in this piece, Kore-eda shows a great fascination with humanity, a desire to narrate interior experience instead of grand tales. However, in the process, he playfully tinkers with cinema's very definitions, and elaborates on the contradictions at the heart of the moving image. Nevertheless, even when working in a fictional landscape, he still pursues emotional purity, explaining in the After Life press notes that 'human emotions are the sparks that fly when "truth" and "fiction" collide' ('After Life Press Kit').
To Kore-eda, fiction seems to be a necessary part of humanity, crafting our identity from embellished memories, and maintaining our relationships through a mixture of lies and buried conflict. Therefore, how best to represent such life on screen, than with an acceptance of these characteristics? This has, in a sense, been clear to Kore-eda since, during the production of However..., he started by writing a book on the same topic as the film, and discovered that, stylistically, ethically and emotionally, the boundary between truth and fabrication is hazy indeed. He reminisced:
'Some writers insist on marking quotations as quotation, while others write non-fiction as though you were present at the scene. So it seems to me that there is non-fiction that reads like a novel and fiction that looks like non-fiction. In any case, writing the book made me think that fiction and non-fiction are in the end both fiction after all. Of course, I intended to write non-fiction... but in the end my account also contains the story that I wanted to tell. So now I'm wondering just what is the "I" that is using documentary material to tell the story that I want to tell.' (Gerow and Tanaka, 1999)