The Invention of Dr. NakaMats (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★
Yoshiro Nakamatsu, more popularly known as Dr. NakaMats, claims that the main problem that man currently faces is how to prolong life. About to turn eighty years of age within a few weeks, this problem is of particular interest to him because he wishes to live for sixty more years to have the chance to create useful products that can benefit the world.
“The Invention of Dr. NakaMats,” directed by Kaspar Astrup Schröder, turns its lens on an eccentric specimen who may or may not have delusions of grandeur. Because of such a professional, astute, and slightly intimidating aura that radiates from him, I was ready to believe everything he has to say. For example, he is so assuring when stating that he, in fact, had invented the floppy disk. (After a Goggle search, his claim remains unsupported.) However, that is not to suggest that he had not invented anything. Some of his work are even patented.
The film’s title has a sharp double meaning. On one hand, the star of the documentary are the various items that Dr. NakaMats created. I wanted to know more about the so-called Brain Drink, a mishmash of medical herbs designed to enhance the brain’s functions, and the accompanying scientific data that support what Dr. NakaMats claims it is supposed to accomplish. Another item of interest is the “Love Jet,” a spray for women which purportedly helps to sexually satisfy them. Although a handful of women agree to appear on camera to express the product’s effectiveness, some things do not quite add up. How convenient that neither Dr. NakaMats nor the filmmakers ever bother to explain how it works. It just does.
On the flip side, I wondered if the film is really more about the invention of a person. This made me feel uneasy because there are specific details that underline the flaws of being human. We learn about the inventions as well as the inventor’s values. For example, there is an emphasis on Dr. NakaMats’ affections toward his deceased mother. The visit to the cemetery and the emotions that comes with it feels genuine. I believe there are some things that even the most talented and hard-working illusionists cannot conceal. With Dr. NakaMats, it is in the way he speaks so fondly of his mother, how smart and hard-working she was, and how she inspired him to be man full of vibrant energy, despite his age, to the point where simply listening to him speak for only a short time is a source of entertainment because of his wit.
Moreover, he shares about two or three interactions with his children which prove to be very awkward. When they approach him and he does not approve of how it plays out, he asks them to back to where they were and, essentially, “reshoot” the “scene.” They agree passively. Unlike Dr. NakaMats’ attitude toward his dead mother, the interactions between he and his children are mostly cold. When Dr. NakaMats attempts to hug his daughter, notice she does not return the embrace. Why not? Is it a case of a cultural difference? Is she simply a shy person and is not one to show affection while out in public especially when cameras are around? Or is the woman next to him not really his daughter?
“The Invention of Dr. NakaMats” is very involving and uncomfortable at times. I enjoyed it because such qualities manage to keep me on my toes, inspiring me to think if what I am really seeing is the truth. In a way, I felt like a kid again. Most of us can remember being young and an adult trying so hard to convince us that a story or idea is true even though deep in our gut we feel that the person is blatantly lying. Watching this movie is exactly like that and it is… almost genius.