Later, Sada (Eiko Matsuda) holds both…the knife and the severed penis of her dead lover, Ichizo (Tatsuya Fuji). The movie is In the Realm of the Senses.
To reach this point we’ve witnessed a sad, odd and serious tale of sexual obsession that takes place in 1936 Japan. A handsome owner of an inn dallies with a new maid. Soon after, he leaves his wife and they embark on a life bounded by the paper walls of a small inn they moved to. Sada is driven by the sexual needs her mind and her body must have, all focused on Ichizo Ishida. Ishida, sexually experienced and confident, is at first delighted. He takes the initiative and reciprocates with as much aroused response as she. Their needs and their pleasures move them toward more exciting territories, including some that your granny might frown upon. It does not end well. Yet the movie, written and directed by Nagisa Oshima, is so somber and so respectful of the two characters that it is difficult not to be drawn to both of them.
We’ve also reached this point by watching any number of explicit sex scenes. Oshima in an interview called his movie hard-core pornography. By this I think he meant that In the Realm of the Senses his actors performed hard-core unsimulated sex featuring fellatio, full intercourse, fondling of each other, male erection and sex with three or four minor characters. But this is no hard-core porn movie. Well, yes it is, partly. Well, no, the movie is a serious work from a serious artist.
When Ishida says, “Since life is a fleeting charm, you can have my life if you want it.” he has become as obsessed as Sada, and for both, sex and life have become so intertwined that satiation immediately leads to arousal. It may be that Ishida has remarkable powers of recovery. It may be that he occasionally complains of being tired or sore. As he becomes more of a willingly partner, she becomes more possessive and violent. As I mentioned, no happy ending.
What does this all mean? I don’t have the slightest idea.
In the Realm of the Senses is a serious movie. Could it have the impact it does without the hardcore sex? I suspect so. I speak only for myself, but genitalia on stage or screen I find distracting. Sex and its apparatus are just too powerful to think they can be observed simply as a part of art or “the human condition.” The need for sexual release is as powerful as the need to eat and drink. It is as natural as breathing. I’m talking sex, not procreation. When I, at least, see real sexual activity I tend to forget about the intent of the artist. I’ll admit, however, that about two-thirds of the way through the movie the sex scenes seemed less compelling. I think most married couples might tell you the same thing.
The two lead actors have my respect. They were doing all that we saw on screen, doing it in character and hitting their marks. They were believable. This was Eiko Matsuda’s first movie. She made it when she was 24. After Realm she made six more, the last in 1982. I wonder what happened to her. Tatsuya Fuji was a well-known leading man when he made Realm. He continues to act.
What is the difference between arthouse & porn? Where do we draw the line? When have we seen too much or when could graphic cinema become too extreme even for the liberal viewer? In The Realm Of The Senses somehow manages to encompass the best of all worlds which leaves viewers shaking their heads in amazement. In fact, many viewers are baffled by the strong themes of love & agression co-existing in the same tale. To make matters even more complicated or disturbing, … more
Since I retired in 1995 I have tried to hone skills in muttering to myself, writing and napping. At 75, I live in one of those places where one moves from independent living to hospice. I expect to begin … more
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