“Pale Moon” directed by Daihachi Yoshida is a cinema adaptation of the popular contemporary novel “Kami no Tsuki” by Mitsuyo Kakuta. “Pale Moon” revolves around an ordinary housewife, Rika ( Rie Miyazawa ) who works as a bank teller. Well known in the office for her customers’ trust and reliability on her, she’s seems content with a good reputation. However, there is an obvious lack of enthusiasm in her daily routine and a distant relationship with her husband who is often stuck long hours at work. It isn’t until she meets one of the elderly client’s Kozo (Renji Ishibashi) for advice on bond sales that she meets his grandson, Kota (Sosuke Ikematsu). At first, she keeps distance from him but then becomes intrigued by his consistent wooing and elopes in a forbidden love.
As she keeps her love affair secret, she begins to contemplate her relationship with her husband who goes overseas to help out with a job. Her young co-worker Keiko (Yuko Oshima) convinces her to enjoy life to the fullest, regardless of the consequences while she too is having a secret love affair for embezzlement. As she ponders on this thought, her lover reveals his debt problem due to the high college tuition. When she asks why he hasn’t consulted his grandfather for a loan, he tells her how he keeps all the money for himself. This is when she takes it upon herself to help him by taking money from his grandfather’s bank account to help him pay off his debt. Her realization of being able to accomplish such a feat without being caught while also helping someone in need gives her a new revelation. She then takes the advice to heart and begins a new life of self indulgence, using forged bank notes and her clients accounts. At this point, her supervisor Yoriko (Satomi Kobayashi) and Rika’s boss (Yoshimasa Kondo), begin to notice discrepancies in her work, arousing suspicion.
With a series of subtle flashbacks, the viewer sees that it’s not the first time she has indulged in such behavior. As an ideal Catholic student, she has always had the “the ends justify the means” mentality. Even at her present state when confronted with the possibility of incarceration, she remains conflicted with her own desires in contrast to her compliance with society dictates as morally correct. Meanwhile, her supervisor makes her aware that even though she helped one person, she has ruined the lives of others in exchange. This becomes an eye opener as she realizes that she can no longer deny the truth of who she is and is later seen in a foreign country.
The film brilliantly explores the complexity of consequentialism but also reflects how money can provide the fuel to greatly impact people’s character and livelihood. With Rie Miyazawa’s interpretation of the character, she is able to portray the two faces of a woman who wants to do good but at the same time not sacrifice her own happiness. At the end of the film, director Daihachi Yoshida joined NYAIFF team to a Q&A session.