From To the Ends of the Earth (2019), dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa (image courtesy KimStim)

Kiyoshi Kurosawa has directed some of the most deeply unsettling horror movies in contemporary cinema, from his 2001 ghost story masterpiece Pulse to 2016’s stalker thriller Creepy. His latest film, To the Ends of the Earth, isn’t horror, but he uses the same techniques for depicting alienation and dread to convey the unreal experience of being a stranger in an unfamiliar place.

The movie follows Yoko (Atsuko Maeda), the host of a Japanese travel show who, along with her small crew, must figure out what to highlight in Uzbekistan. Traveling from Samarkand to Tashkent, they struggle to communicate with the locals to put together a worthwhile episode of TV. In front of the camera, Yoko is bubbly and bright, while behind the scenes she’s frequently stressed and lonely, and this dissonance intensifies as the film goes on. At points it even breaks out fully into the fantastical, such as when she visits a theater in Tashkent that was built by Japanese POWs after World War II and sings Édith Piaf (showing off Maeda’s skills as a former pop idol). An idiosyncratic tale of being culturally adrift, To the Ends of the Earth is a great movie to watch to close out a strange year.

YouTube video

To the Ends of the Earth is available in virtual cinemas.

Dan Schindel is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Brooklyn, and a former associate editor at Hyperallergic. His portfolio and links are here.