Directed by Nagisa Oshima and released in it’s home country of Japan in 1976.
The story of Abe Sada is one of much notoriety in Japan and as a result so did this film become. The story is that of a Japanese prostitute who found a man she loved and ended up killing him out of the love she had for him – thus culminating in an intense finale that is one for the books. The most peaceful castration scene in the history of cinema I think!
In The Realm Of The Senses wasn’t the first film made about Sada. A Woman Called Sada Abe was directed by famed pinku director Noboru Tanaka (Watcher In The Attic) in 1975, only a year earlier. Obviously Tanaka’s effort was completely overshadowed by Oshima’s. The next version was made in 1998, a film which I had the sad pleasure of watching just a few days ago. as I said in my review I did not enjoy how Nobuhiko Ôbayashi treat this profound and intriguing story with such humour and brass. It was quite disheartening but I was eager to try and find something that was a more serious take on the story of Sada Abe.
Over the years I’d heard many things about this film and having recently began exploring more and more of the history of Japanese cinema – including the famed pinku genre which probably has some roots in the story of Sada Abe aswell as the barrage of young directors in the 1960s eager to put their stamp on cinema – I’m very pleased to finally say that I’ve seen finally this.
The film is a very powerful one. There isn’t ten minutes that go by without a sex scene but despite these nymphomaniac characters, the film is layered with exquisite cinematography that lingers before the action as much as it gets right into it. Japanese cinematographers have always had an extreme knack for such delicate and perfect positioning of the camera and it is no different here. The sheer depth of shots in anything from Kurosawa to Kitano are always a delight but to see such perfect filmmaking in such an overtly sexual film?
I’ve not seen many “erotic” art films, or whatever people label them as, and to be honest films like Last Tango In Paris or 9 Songs (to think of something else that I can compare) don’t really interest me in a way that this would… not just purely because of the controversy, but because of how beautiful these films are when you look beyond the sex and beyond the violence and the controversial elements. The brash sexuality of the film can only be expected. Those who are offended or do not like to watch it are those unaware of the history of Japanese cinema (which was already plenty obscene since even the early ’60s) or they are just afraid of sex and the truth which lies therein. As you’ll see in this film, aswell as any of the other films that are similar to this to come out of Japan, the sex shown on screen is treated with as much respect as the violence and the laughter.
Through the love of Sada Abe to her lover, we almost watch Japan transforming before our very eyes. The time this ocurred was in 1936, and the society of the times was a very very different one to that of today. This story indeed shocked an entire nation, I’m sure, but it also gripped them as they were interested in how bizarre the case was. Even as time went on though and the society became somewhat more accepting of these sexual elements, forty years later in 1976 and to this very day the film is still cut down and stripped of certain scenes or shots.
An incredibly powerful film that is as important to cinema as it is to the respect for women that which they rightly deserve not just as women but as human beings. We’re all the same, and we all (for the most part) have the same urges that propel us to do the things we do and to go after the things in life which we want. Sadly for Sada Abe, what she wanted was sex and sadomasochism… and fucking lots of it!!
If you think pornography can’t be considered art, then you probably want to stay away from this one.