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Rebirth (2011)

Yôkame no semi (original title)
After the collapse of their relationship, Kiwako abducts the 6-month old child of a man she was having an affair with. Raising the child as her own, it is four years before the authorities catch up with her and the young child.


Izuru Narushima


Mitsuyo Kakuta (serial story "Yôkame no semi"), Satoko Okudera (screenplay)
13 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »


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Credited cast:
Hiromi Nagasaku Hiromi Nagasaku ... Kiwako Nonomiya / Rutsu
Mao Inoue Mao Inoue ... Erina Akiyama
Eiko Koike Eiko Koike ... Chigusa Ando
Konomi Watanabe Konomi Watanabe ... Kaoru / Erina Akiyama / Ribeka
Yôko Moriguchi ... Etsuko Akiyama
Tetsushi Tanaka Tetsushi Tanaka ... Takehiro Akiyama
Jun Fubuki Jun Fubuki ... Masae Sawada
Gekidan Hitori Gekidan Hitori ... Takashi Kishida
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Yô Yoshida


After the collapse of their relationship, Kiwako abducts the 6-month old child of a man she was having an affair with. Raising the child as her own, it is four years before the authorities catch up with her and the young child.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis





Official Sites:

Official site [Japan]





Release Date:

29 April 2011 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

Rebirth See more »

Filming Locations:

Shodoshima, Kagawa, Japan See more »


Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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User Reviews

Coming to terms with the past
28 December 2017 | by nmegaheySee all my reviews

The relationship with the past is a complex question for a nation that still lives with the legacy of the war, the reality of the experience of seismic and nuclear destruction, an attack on tradition and cultural values in the changing modern world and the prospect of ruinous economic decline. Izuru Narushima's 2011 film REBIRTH, the winner of no less than 11 awards at the 2012 Japanese Academy Awards, deals with the no less complex question of an individual's personal relationship with the past. but it hints at other issues that have resonance for the Japanese in the traumatised childhood of one individual who needs to confront fundamental questions about her own identity if she is not to repeat mistakes made in the past.

REBIRTH plays out initially very much as a tragic melodrama of an abducted baby, and you would think that this would be a sufficiently emotive subject on its own, but the film's opening sequence the viewer in a way that draws them much more deeply into the wider implications of the drama. Presented in the form of a court case, the shocking details are laid out to reveal how Erina was abducted by her father's mistress Kiwako (Hiromi Nagasaku) while she was only a newborn child. Having recently had an abortion, Kiwako has stolen the child from her lover and his wife to make up for her own terrible loss. It's only four years later when the law catches up with them that Erina discovers her true identity, that her name is not Kaoru and that Kiwako is not her birth-mother. This information is presented to the viewer in the court, the accused and the accuser speaking directly face-on to the camera - one calm and collected as she is sentenced, the other screaming out for her death.

The confrontational manner of the opening sequence and its direct appeal to the viewer however hints at a more personal angle that REBIRTH goes on to examine in the remainder of the film. It takes the fragmented perspective of an older Erina (Mao Inoue), now a young woman working as a waitress in a bar, who has never known any stability in her life or been able to forge a meaningful connection with her real birth-mother. The flashback episodes to her past, to the abduction and to an unconventional upbringing on the road and on the run are not merely a narrative device to gradually reveal backstory, but an integral part of how Erina with her confused dual identity relates to the world. The structure however has another purpose, showing events in parallel in order to relate the real crux of Erina's dilemma. Pregnant to a married man, she now finds herself in a similar position to the "mother" who abducted her. How can she prevent herself making the same mistakes as Kiwako?

That's still very much a personal dilemma, but there are suggestions that this necessary sense of reflection on the past, of learning lessons and the need to be "reborn" relate to wider questions of what it means to be a woman, what it means to be Japanese and what it means to be a Japanese woman. In the way that it confronts these issues however, REBIRTH never takes a simplistic or conventional view and it never accepts that there is even an absolute moral position to take. It doesn't, for example, make it easy to even determine who is more guilty - the woman who abducted Erina as a child and lovingly brought her up, or a traumatised mother who is unable to forgive and reconnect with her own child. Neither of them entirely deserve condemnation, both of them in a way are victims of circumstance (and a married man's indiscretion), but it's Kaoru/Erina in the middle who evidently suffers most over what has happened and needs to find some kind of answer or accommodation with such impossible questions.

Society, and a society that is as strongly patriarchal as Japan, is seen as being partly to blame, but again it's not so much an accusation as a recognition of the problems that have been inherited from the past. The malaise or corruption at the core of society and the dangers associated with it are mentioned in passing in reference to the 1995 sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo Underground by the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult, but it is also a kind of cult that gives shelter to Kiwako and Kaoru without asking any questions. There are certainly some sinister elements to the Angel Home and the cult's eccentric leader, but it is essentially a shelter for women who need to escape from the world for their own personal reasons. Without necessarily condoning the idea of cults, it's the film's openness to consider "alternative" ways of living that is the key here. Freedom to choose is what is important, and it's another young woman from Erina's past who proposes a way of reopening those avenues closed off by her unconventional upbringing, and a way to avoid making the same mistakes.

Formally, REBIRTH is a beautifully constructed film in its use of colours and tones, in its choice of music, in how it uses and paces its length (two and a half hours long) to give the characters - anchored by some very fine acting performances - room to breathe. It also gives the viewer time to reflect on their nature through the choice of locations it places them in and in the use of contrasting landscapes. It does indeed then turn into a road-movie as Erina retraces her childhood upbringing looking for answers, a voyage of self-discovery and a turn to nature of sorts as Erina leaves Tokyo for the remote parts of Japan, but the film never settles for conventional revelations or resolutions, using the journey rather to create a sense of space and freedom that allows new possibilities to be considered. In doing so, the film explores what it means to be human and come to terms with our place in the world with a remarkable sense of intimacy, but it also suggests that there is potential for discovering greater beauty and true freedom in the infinite sense of possibilities that are open to us all if we can break those bonds of the past.

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