Monday, November 16, 2009
Onibaba - Demon Woman
Deep within the wind-swept marshes of war-torn medieval Japan, an impoverished mother and her daughter-in-law eke out a lonely, desperate existence. Forced to murder lost samurai and sell their belongings for grain, they dump the corpses down a deep, dark hole and live off of their meager spoils. When a bedraggled neighbor returns from the skirmishes, lust, jealousy, and rage threaten to destroy the trio’s tenuous existence, before an ominous, ill-gotten demon mask seals the trio’s horrifying fate. Driven by primal emotions, dark eroticism, a frenzied score by Hikaru Hayashi, and stunning images both lyrical and macabre, Kaneto Shindo’s chilling folktale Onibaba is a singular cinematic experience.
This film is really completely different than any other samurai movie I have seen. The story surrounds two women who live during a time of civil war in the 14th century. They live in a spooky marshland area and keep themselves alive by murdering lost samurai and selling their armor and weapons. This allows them to survive while the younger woman's husband and the older woman's son is away fighting in the wars. However, everything quickly changes when a man named Hachi returns from the wars and becomes their neighbor. He returns with the news that the younger woman's husband is dead. The younger woman is distrustful at first but eventually her sexual urges push her to begin a passionate affair with Hachi... much to the disgust of the older woman. But her anger is not so much coming from a sense of immorality but because she is jealous of the younger woman. The older woman even tries to convince Hachi to sleep with her. Later, the old woman realizes that her younger samurai killing partner might leave with Hachi and then she would have to fend for herself, which turns her jealously to fear. I won't say what happens after that so as not to give it away but the ending is pretty bizarre.
Before I watched this I wondered how much there could be to this story to last two hours. But it ended up being a really interesting plot. The photography was amazing and I really loved the strange and eerie drum based music, especially at the start of the film. This is not really a horror film but more like a psychological drama loosely based on Buddhist fables. This is an excellent, strange, eerie film with a very bizarre and abrupt ending. Highly recommended.