Onibaba (Demon Woman) from Kaneto Shindo is uncannily similar to Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Woman in the Dunes, released in the same year. These are “art films,” as the saying goes, rich with long, abstract shots of claustrophobic natural surrounding: long and thick reeds that form a dense carpet with little bald spots of huts (Onibaba), and sand dunes with an almost organic quality that spill into a dungeon-like house-pit (Woman in the Dunes). In both films, the silent yet perpetually active landscape creeps in upon the physical space of the characters and into their psyches, causing an arousal of erotic desire, manifest in that inhuman tendency to copulate with anything – moving or otherwise. An eerie nightmare of subconscious surrealism results in each story. Onibaba is known as a horror film, but it only fits that genre in the sense that The Twilight Zone fits it. The mask seems to be a direct connection with Rod Serling’s show, with the same consequence when the character who selfishly donned the mask finally removes it. Shindo, if anything, is a master of activating the senses, using palpable and earthy sounds and images the way Hitchcock used camera movement and editing. The Japanese New Wave is evident here in 1964, as it becomes clearer why Kurosawa, in between such masterpieces as High and Low and Red Beard, started losing his popularity and his sense of how to make movies for the new Japan.
26 Feb This entry was published on February 26, 2009 at 1:14 pm. It’s filed under 1960s Cinema, Japanese Film and tagged cinema, erotic, Hiroshi Teshigahara, Japanese Film, Kaneto Shindo, Onibaba, Woman in the Dunes. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.
One of the other things that adds to Onibaba being tense and disorienting is the percussive soundtrack. This film is haunting and I love it.
good article .. well as Corletee barmain says in her book and refers to the film , the mask is an external expression of the internal self as outer appearance. and the frnetic soundtrack is incredible, you believe to be in a different and creepy erratic world.
These comments do well to draw attention to the sound, which I neglected while originally writing. Not enough can be said about it, as it adds to the deeply sensual nature of the film. I appreciate your note, Abimorella, about the mask. I still can’t help but think of the famous Twilight Zone episodes entitled “The Masks” and “The Eye of the Beholder,” to which I think your explanation of the mask in Onibaba also applies.
yeah definetely , there’s a whole theory behind it , even when you think about how when we put a mask on , we take on the personality of the mask…
ps: have to apologize for my bad typing , i’m sorry