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Film Spotlight

Light, Noise, Smoke and Light, Noise, Smoke
directed by Tomonari Nishikawa, Japan, 6:00

Light Noise Smoke and Light Noise Smoke_01.jpg

There are some universal experiences that we can all agree on. One is that fireworks are spectacular. We can all recognize the sights and sounds of a fireworks show, so deeply ingrained they are in a variety of celebratory traditions. They are so common, in fact, that it would take a lot to change how someone sees and experiences fireworks. For me, my feelings about fireworks changed once with age— when I was young I used to hide in the house because they were too loud, but as I got older I found them more lovely. Now, with Light, Noise, Smoke and Light, Noise, Smoke, directed by Tomonari Nishikawa, I can once again see them differently. The film presents the familiar images of a fireworks show against a night sky; the more we see, however, the more unfamiliar it becomes, and the sound enhances this feeling. Through sharp cuts, oblique sound, and careful framing, the film creates the abstract in real time and space.


The film compels the audience to let go of their understanding of reality. In an interview for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Tomonari Nishikawa discusses his approach to his films. He stated, "...I try to produce abstract time and space from real time and space, letting the viewers be aware of human visual perception and the cinema apparatus. I am also interested in shooting in the real world, documenting the environments at the time when I am there, even though it is getting more difficult to shoot in the public  space."* "The cinema apparatus" is the cause of the visceral reaction to the visuals. Furthermore, shooting in the real world only enhances the impact of the work, and the film uses the unique properties of 16mm filmmaking to distort the viewer’s perception.


One technique that most immediate abstracts the familiar is the film’s treatment of sound, which embraces temporal displacement. In his description of the film, Nishikawa describes the technical treatment of sound, which also serves to establish the film’s rhythm: "The optical soundtrack information is 26 frames ahead of the image. Then to give even more separation between image and sound, two rolls of film were used, each cut into 26 frames, and the shots alternated from one roll to another." 


As a result of this displacement, Light, Noise, Smoke and Light, Noise, Smoke invites its audience to set aside their familiarity with the subject and instead embrace the sensory experience; prior knowledge becomes secondary to the on-screen phenomena. The rhythm of the visuals and sound allows the eyes of the viewer to rest, which allows the spectator’s sight to break the fireworks down into their simplest form. The fireworks morph into pure movement and color. The colors are most often red and white. The red is much more calming than the white. The white fills up the screen, and the sound roars simultaneously. The red, however, is more of a pattern. These color differences show the abstract in the real world, and the audience’s experience builds from the ontological elements of the film into more complex comprehensions. Instead of the flares of recreational  explosions, we might see confetti, fantastical sci-fi battles, or, perhaps, all the stars in the sky bouncing into each other. 


- Gabe Wyatt, BFA Film Production ‘26



*McCormack, Tom. “An Interview with Tomonari Nishikawa by Tom McCormack.” Edited by Jessica Bardsley, Conversations at the Edge (CATE), School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 11 May 2012,

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