After two films for Shochiku Fuji, Kitano made his own production company.
Shigeru (Maki) is deaf mute and works part time as sanitation worker. One day he finds cracked surfboard, which he takes home. Having repaired it, he ventures to the beach to surf with his girlfriend Takako (Oshima), who also is deaf. His first surf is pretty inept. The next day he finishes work as fast he can and goes to the beach to surf again. Again the local surfers laugh at him, but only because he is so inept. This second surf ends, when the board breaks.
They go into the city to buy a new board, but it's too expensive. As Shigeru gets his paycheck, they go into the city again and buys a new board. Since he isn't allowed on the bus with the board, he has to walk the long way home. Over the next days Shigeru begins to get better at surfing. Impressed by his determination and progress, the owner of the surfboard store gives Shigeru a wetsuit and an invitation to a surfing contest. Both being deaf, Shigeru doesn't hear the announcement and is disqualified.
Shigeru is now consumed by surfing. Takako and him are not talking and he skips work to surf. But they miss each other too much and eventually find together again. As the summer comes to an end, they all go to the final contest of the year. Now belonging to the group, Shigeru is told when he is up, and ends up with a prize as one of the best surfers at the contest.
As summer turns to autumn, Shigeru still goes surfing every day. And loyally Takako follows. One day, she is a little behind Shigeru. She is walking slowly with an umbrella, as it is raining. When she arrives at the beach, Shigeru isn't there; Only his surf board.
A year passes and summer comes again. Life goes on as usual, but the presence of Shigeru is missing. The surfer gang still hangs out, but they don't laugh as much anymore. His friends still watch the surf from the soccer field, but they don't laugh so much either. Takako goes to the beach, where Shigeru drowned, and puts his board to sea. Watching the board drift, she remembers the happiness of last summer.
Thoughts on A Scene at the Sea
In the French theatrical version of "A Scene at the Sea", a subtitle is inserted at [xx:yy] which says "Il est devenu Poisson" (he became fish). The subtitle was written by French translator and Japanese film authority Catherine Cadou on the request of Kitano Takeshi. According to Cadou, Kitano was afraid that a western audience wouldn't understand the death / dissappearence of Shigeru (Maki) and feared that they would interpret it as kamikakushi (spirited away). By noting that he went on to become a fish, his disappearence was non mystic and as such no interpretation of kamikakushi was possible.
Cadou told me, that she objected to this subtitle and that she thought of taking her name of the creditation. She also dissagreed with Kitano that a western audience would misinterpret the ending. Perhaps Kitano took her opinions into considerations, as there are no such subtitle on any other DVD of "A Scene at the Sea".
The subtitle is perhaps also on the French VHS edition of "A Scene at the Sea" (HK Video), however this is not yet confirmed.