Above the Clouds

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Above the Clouds (Kumo no ue)

Directed by Katsuya Tomita

  • Japan 2003; 115 min
  • Original version: Japanese
  • Genre: Drama, Action


In some lonely countryside, or more precisely, in the smaller district where the word “community” still fits perfectly, there is an old temple with a red rusty roof. The temple is called Kôun’in whose roof has a tale passed down from ancient times.

The tale is based on the myth of dragon god: Once upon a time at a brumous crack of dawn, all kinds of snakes magically flocked to a waterfall. As soon as they merged into a single huge serpent, it started to fly up heavenward. But when it incarnadined his body with the red color of the roof, it transformed itself into a rising dragon.

The movie begins when Chikén -the lead character- is released from jail where he was serving a term for assault. He is the son and heir of Kôun’in temple and in fact, is also a head man of ruffians in the area. At his return his old time crew returns to him. He recalls a promise he made as a kid which wasn’t just kept but rather violated. Chikén is obsessively attracted to this myth as if he thinks he can purify his heart of sin and finally fulfill the promise once broken by helping his childhood friend who wishes to bail out from the yakuza, or Japanese gangsters.  

Director's Statement

While I began working on this film in my mid-twenties, it was not completed until my early thirties. The process of writing the screenplay took two years, followed by three years of shooting. My age influenced my engagement with the film: the theme reflects my concerns as a susceptible youth, while also incorporating the changing landscape and participants involved during the long period of production. Consequently, I came to realize that making a film is not just an expression of one’s internal thoughts, but also a projection of what is happening externally—in other words, it requires opening oneself to external events. I believe that I was only able to create this film through self-discovery; as the film took form, so did I. Finally, I would like to celebrate this film’s role in initiating my long-term collaboration with Tsuyoshi Takano and Hitoshi Ito, both of whom have continued to act in my subsequent films.



    Terutarô Osanaï 


    Atsuko Ohno