Thursday, January 13, 2011

#230 Narayama Bushi-Ko [The Ballad of Narayama] (1983)


Director: Shohei Imamura

Cast: Ken Ogata, Sumiko Sakamoto, Takejo Aki, Tonpei Hidari, Seiji Kurasaki, Kaoru Shimamori, Ryutaro Tatsumi, Junko Takada, Nijiko Kiyokawa, Mitsuko Baisho

In a remote mountain village in 19th century Japan, all inhabitants face an unusual and unfortunate destiny: at the age of 70 they all must be carried up Mt. Narayama to be left to die. In a primitive, hand-to-mouth existence, the natives of this village live out surreal and horrific scenarios on a daily basis (the local second-born sons take out their sexual frustrations on the neighborhood dog, a family is buried alive for taking too many potatoes...), making the unstoppable approach of each of their mountain-journeys far too ordinary.

The film chronicles one particular family, the Nekkos, who are anticipating the matriarch's, Orin's, 70th birthday. Her eldest son bares the task of taking her up the mountain, and her peaceful, dreamlike acceptance of her own mortality is astounding. What is so unexpected, however, is that we soon find that this useless ritual is the quality that gives their characters their humanity.

The film is slow, but illusorily so. The feelings of normalcy that this film injects into such unbelievable circumstances enables the mountain journey of Orin and her son Tatsuhei to feel impactful in a surprising, unexpected way. An interesting and unsparing examination of societal evolutions--left unchecked will develop in a direction that prove irreversible and unexplainable, yet nevertheless unstoppable.

No comments:

Post a Comment