Heart, Beating In The Dark is a 2005 film from Shunichi Nagasaki, based on that director’s own 1982 original, in which a young couple, Ringo and Inako, try to deal with life after killing their own daughter. Part re-imagining, part reappraisal, the film concerns itself with questions of morality, guilt, regret and memory.
The film begins with the following voiceover: “In 1982, Nagasaki Shunichi made a Super-8 film called Heart, Beating In The Dark, starring Naito Takashi and Muroi Shigeru. It was the story of a young couple on the run after killing their own child. 23 years later, a remake of the film was to be made.”
What goes on in Heart, Beating In The Dark is rather difficult to describe. It is, in essence, four films in one. The film intercuts between the Super-8 original, a sequel with the original actors, a remake with new, younger actors, and a faux-documentary about the filming of the remake – all to somewhat confusing effect.
Naito Takashi and Muroi Shigeru return twenty-three years later to play the older Ringo and Inako in the sequel, as well as themselves in the making-of documentary. Naito and Muroi wish to return to the characters in order to do right by them as, in the intervening years, they have been troubled by how the original Heart, Beating In The Dark ended. Naito wishes to meet Ringo in the remake in order to slap him in the face, while Muroi wants to give Inako the help she always needed but never got.
Meanwhile, two young actors, Shoichi Honda and Noriko Eguchi, are recruited to play the child-killing couple, now renamed Toru and Yuki, in the remake. In the end, the boundaries between original, sequel, remake and documentary clash – Naito and Muroi are confronted with their younger selves, in the figures of Honda and Eguchi, and in their characters, Toru and Yuki.
Heart, Beating In The Dark is undeniably a multi-layered and fascinating work. It addresses regret and self-loathing in both a fictional and (apparently) non-fictional manner, as well as looking at the connections between memory and cinema. Naito Takashi, the lead actor of the controversial original film, has come to see the film in a different light, now finding it to be the contemptible work of a young man. Older and wiser, Naito seems to want to readdress the film from a more moral standpoint. So, evidently, does Shunichi Nagasaki, although he is largely invisible but for brief glimpses during the documentary segments.