FilmQuest Review: ‘Code Name: Nagasaki’ is a Poignant Doc About Friendship and Filmmaking

'Code Name: Nagasaki'

On the surface, Code Name: Nagasaki follows Marius as he searches for his long-lost mother. He brings along his friend and fellow filmmaker Fredrik for the emotional ride to reconnect with the woman who abandoned him 27 years ago. 

This documentary tackles this heavy subject by trying to distract the audience by employing different genres to tell the story. This device starts as a cool way of connecting the duo’s filmmaking abilities to the real-life journey that Marius is embarking on. It embraces film noir for Marius’s moments of research, a shaky camera following a monster in the woods leads into footage from Marius’ childhood, and other fantastical moments of note where they tie it all together make it hard to completely disregard the technique. However, it is the honest moments without the fantastical elements that are where the real movie lives.

While filming some of the film noir scenes for the documentary, Marius opens up a letter informing him that his mother built a new family after they separated. We get to live in this moment with him as he processes what that means for him and begins to wonder that their reunion might not be as important for her as it is to him. We also find out that Marius has been learning Japanese these last few months in hopes that if he finds his mother, they can have a conversation without a translater. He gets help from a tutor and writes her a letter that he reads aloud, hoping it reaches her and that she will let him know if she even wants to meet with him. We find out in the letter that this trip to Japan will be his first time returning since he briefly lived there with his mother. This leads him to eventually share some of the bigger feelings about being disconnected from this part of his identity in a moment that would have truly been cheapened by inserting a scripted scene with a nod to a genre.

Eventually, Marius finds his biological mother and is granted permission to give her a letter at her work. She calls him later and agrees to meet with him alone. He records the conversation, dubs over her voice, and uses it over animated moments that feel like a release of emotions, and at times a bit of a spiral. As characters he has played earlier in the documentary begin to intrude on this peaceful ending for what seems to be an ensuing battle, they are broken up by him asking his mother for a hug.

While the genre nods sometimes feel too meta and distracting, I cannot help thinking they are more of a coping mechanism for the filmmaker that made himself the subject of his work. At no point did this documentary not feel like it was even more personal than we can only assume from the outside. I think we, and Fredrik, find it easier to let Marius have this one thing simply because it feels like the only way to support someone who is sharing something so private.

Code Name: Nagasaki had its regional premiere at FilmQuest 2021.

  • Code Name: Nagasaki


Code Name: Nagasaki is an emotional rollercoaster told in a very unusual way. This documentary will stay with you long after the credits roll, and leave you pondering some of the themes it doesn’t have quite enough time to explore.



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