11. Onibaba


Now dear reader, I don’t think you saw this one coming.  So far we have kept post 1985 and in Colour.

Well lets jump in the old cinematic Time Machine to a film made in 1964 Japan by Kanteto Shindo (Born in 1912 and as I write, still making films).

This is an amazing piece of Cinema, with only 3 main actors onibaba1 controlling all 103 minutes.  Onibaba is set in 14th Century Japan, and tells the tale of a Woman, her daughter-in-law, and a friend of their deceased Son/Husband.  The two women are reduced to waylaying and killing soldiers in order to sell their armour and weapons for food.

The film changes with the return of the friend.  Passions are ignited, and jealousies are inflamed.  And whilst the film is usually termed a horror film, it does not really deserve that tag.  It is a study in the human condition, as all great films are I suppose.

The film drips with imagery and symbolism. None more so than the yonic* hole that is used to kill the soldiers.  Makes an interesting change from the usual phallic imagery.

Oh and remember I said this was made in 1964?  Well this not one for the kids.  There is a lot of nudity, and some quite sweaty sex.  Realistic rather than pornographic, but quite a shock if you don’t expect to see it.

The film looks amazing in Black and White.  This was deliberate choice of medium – colour was the standard of the day.  The black and white images invoke all the feelings of desire, lust, fear that seep through the film.  The use of sound is also amazing, sometimes modern, sometimes traditional.

I am not sure where you could ever see this film – it is a little obscure for television – but I would highly recommend the excellent Criterion DVD.

So in summary – Black and White and subtitles CAN be a wonderful experience.

*Yes I had to look up the feminine version of phallic.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Han-Byul says:

    Have you seen Asif Kapadia's Far North? Quite influenced by this great movie, and definitely worth a watch. Evokes a standard of mood rarely seen in todays cinema.


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