Tears behind the wheel: embracing ambiguity for Perfect Days

Film still from Perfect Days by Wim Wenders. Supplied

I snagged the last ticket to the film, landing what I dub the “hellish spot”: the very front row’s last seat on one side.

Next to me, a woman, equally out of luck, found solace in my arrival.

“Thank God you got the worst seat, making mine seem better,” she quipped suddenly.

“You owe me a drink for making your day,” I retorted in jest.

For those yet to see the Oscar-nominated Perfect Days, proceed with caution; this piece contains spoilers.

I want to ask you, have you ever found yourself shedding tears while driving?

The film’s climax, where the protagonist – an introverted toilet cleaner – weeps behind the wheel, struck a deep chord with me.

Despite scouring numerous reviews, none captured the scene’s essence, perhaps because I’ve lived it.

The film tracks a toilet cleaner who discovers joy in simple things. Supplied

In 2022, I was driving near Melbourne Cricket Ground at the end of the world’s longest lockdown, witnessing a breathtaking sunset.

Tears streamed down my face. With two friends aboard, discussing love, an enveloping silence took hold.

Suddenly, the depth of my shallowness became apparent to me.

My journalistic instincts crave a world that is black and white.

For years, the distinction between right and wrong is typically clear-cut, offering little room for nuance.

But my higher self acknowledges that embracing ambiguity is key to contentment.

Perfect days surface within the grey areas where I reduce my conformity to societal norms, allowing those rigid lines to fade.

By day, I put on my courage and cynicism, holding others accountable.

But, by night, I revert to being gentle, relaxed, and at times, quiet.

Much like the character’s existence—donning or doffing your uniform transports you between two distinct worlds.

Between these worlds lies some untouched fields. Not everything requires an answer.

In this film, the conventional judgments are just a known reality; the actual allure lies in an individual’s inner world, mirroring the multifaceted experience of life.

Your worth isn’t defined by a profession, wealth, or fame; it hinges on your character.

One of the komorebi pictures Hirayama took. Supplied

Director Wim Wenders also artfully employs the Japanese concept of 木漏れ日 (Komorebi) in the film, portraying sunlight filtering through leaves to mirror the protagonist’s black-and-white dreams, reflecting the art of ambiguity.

This bond with the character — Hirayama’s joy and sorrow, felt in the crying scene, signifies moving forward with hope.

It was what crossed my mind as tears welled up while driving in 2022, resonating with the film’s final soundtrack:

“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me, yeah.”

Feeling Good by Nina Simone | Songwriters: Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse


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