"I'm lying to her," says Ishii Yuichi to the woman who pays him for playing the lost father for her twelve-year-old daughter, whom she never knew, the real father disappeared when the daughter was still a baby . "And she's lying to me," Yuichi added, because the girl told him about a vacation with his mother in Bali that never happened. "We're lying to each other," Yuichi finally says, and when you look at this key scene in Werner Herzog's new film, you think briefly: Isn't that the essence of all human relationships, even if the people involved only want each other's good?
Family Romance, LLC is the name of the film, which will have its worldwide online premiere on July 3, and can be watched for free on the Mubi art film platform for 24 hours. It is neither a documentary nor a feature film, but both at the same time, on television you would call it a scripted reality format. Ishii Yuichi is a real entrepreneur from Tokyo and the name of his limited company - Family Romance, LLC - became the film title. Yuichi's business is to rent out to his customers people who serve as substitutes: substitute father, substitute mother, substitute daughter, substitute friend, substitute colleague. His staff are actresses who pretend to be someone else in real life to fill a human void. They lie so that someone else is better off or only the beautiful appearance is preserved, for example that of a complete family.
Yuichi, that is the trick in Family Romance, LLC , plays itself in the film, among other things as a replacement father of a twelve-year-old, but also as a replacement colleague of a railway employee and even, but only on a trial basis, as a replacement body at a funeral. Herzog wrote all these scenarios, they are fictional, but not necessarily fictitious: In an interview with the Atlantic , the real Yuichi told three years ago that at that time he was actually giving the replacement father for a girl, among other things. That was already 20 years old at the time and had believed for eight years that Yuichi was actually her father (the real one no longer existed).
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For an incredibly long time, Yuichi had been in this role paid for by the mother, a literal life lie. "If a client never reveals the truth, I have to continue playing a role indefinitely," Yuichi said in the interview. "If the daughter ever gets married, I have to act as the father of the bride at the wedding and later the grandfather of her children. So I ask every client at the beginning: 'Are you ready to keep the lie?' That is the biggest problem for our company. "
What a business problem, what a business idea in general! Spookily self-evident, inhumane and deeply human-friendly at the same time: all the family celebrations, all the few big and many small moments in life that this girl, for example, has experienced and will still experience in the company of a man who is originally a stranger. But what is more terrible, the lie or the idea that there is no one, no father?
Herzog does not explicitly play through the question in his film, you take it for granted when you watch it. And she presents herself to the film, in which only Yuichi gives himself: The other people appearing in it are all lay mimes engaged by Herzog, including the supposed twelve-year-old daughter, who apparently knows nothing of the lie. Yuichi's actual activities as a substitute could not have been filmed by Herzog documentarily, quasi-journalistically, otherwise the truth would have come out in the real world.
Family Romance, LLC, for example, is about lying, or at least two levels, of how people perform in normal life and may even know that they sometimes pretend to be who they really are not, or at least think they are not : Complicated life, huh? The lie begins with smiling at someone, even though you may not feel like smiling at all. But the truth would not be so nice for the other. In general, the truth is often exhausting, it is troublesome, at least communicative, and would sometimes hurt many people. The lie also creates a shelter, not always only for the person who lies.