The first ten minutes make it out to be a different film. The camera lazily floats through a theater rehearsal, almost reminiscent of Jacques Rivette’s thirteen hour magnum opus, Out 1, in its consistent long takes to show theatrics. Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops is notable for being a one take film that doesn’t feel like one take. While it has a fluidity, it never feels static, camera floating and dipping between the performers to constantly form new compositions. Never static, never mundane, the line between reality and rehearsal is blurred as the six teens fall deeper into their acting. In a small town, the six have been selected after auditions for a play that is now cancelled, but they decide that they will stay onstage through it, and lead the rehearsals themselves.
Daigo Matsui’s narrative within a narrative is the story of a young girl whose friend is about to leave her hometown. Like the play, the actors are leaving normal life to spend so much time continuing the play they had started rehearsing for weeks, refusing to stay back in their lives before. As their acting skills develop, the teens begin to grow emotionally, the self-governance of these rehearsals taking a toll on their last days of youth. They grow empty, they grow aggressive, they project their fantasies onto each other, and they learn to confront both dreams and disappointments, but never do they call off this self enforced project. It is a distant beacon for them, this idea that there is something to hold onto through all the pessimism that comes with the times.
Constantly shifting between reality and rehearsal, practice makes perfect until the youth are satisfied with their version of the play. The only thing that ever feels fully real, unrehearsed and unscripted, is the presence of the actors onstage. They are a concrete anchor for the constantly floating perspective, and even when we are no longer certain the set-up for the film is even real, that it isn’t another layer of acting, they ground it as a testimony to performance. The young actors are all impressive in their own right, putting on multiple layers of character, but Kokoro Morita gives a breakout deeply captivating performance.
The weakest point is the characters, a limited cast where none is quite interesting on their own. This could be written off as them being performers, and never purely inhabiting as themselves, and though well acted we are never particularly attached to them as people. While centric on its cast it is more about the nature of creating a character than the characters themselves, which may prove difficult for providing an audience entry point for some. The perspective we are given is not that of an audience but that of a phantom director, and we feel like we are controlling these interactions as we are placed inside of them but never acknowledged.
For many, the film’s single take may be off putting, difficult to watch at times. Though the film has a 74 minute runtime, commendable for not taking time to excess and knowing when to stop, it is set over the course of one month, so suspension of disbelief must be used to believe that this time is passing. Clothes change, cues shift, and bonds grow, yet the camera never cuts away, giving the dizzying illusion that time has shifted entirely. This isn’t for everyone, but the fluidity of Ice Cream and the Sound of Raindrops is fascinating, and for anyone with theater experience it is an ode to the bonds we make, and the awakenings that come on the stage.