- New digital transfer with restored image and sound and new English subtitles
- New video interview with writer/director Kaneto Shindo
- Rare super-8 black & white footage provided by actor Kei Sato, shot on Location during the filming of Onibaba
- Stills gallery featuring production sketches and promotional art
- Rare english translation of the original short buddhist fable that inspired the film
- Filmmaker's statement from writer/director Kaneto Shindo
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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 their horrifying fate. Driven by primal emotions, dark eroticism, a frenzied score by Hikaru Hayashi, and stunning images both lyrical and macabre, Kaneto Shindos chilling folktale, Onibaba, is a singular cinematic experience.
A curse hangs over Kaneto Shindo's primal Japanese classic like a looming storm cloud, but the supernatural has got nothing on the desperation and savagery of the human animal trying to survive the horrors of war. In 16th-century Japan, a hardened middle-aged woman and her young daughter-in-law have turned predator to survive, murdering the soldiers who wander into the sea of pampas grass surrounding their hut and selling their weapons for rice. When their war-deserter neighbor returns home and makes his moves on the young woman, their numb equilibrium is complicated by greed, jealousy, and lust. The consequences are terrible and not exactly surprising, but they are gripping. Shindo's unnerving close-ups, bobbing handheld camerawork, and soundtrack of pounding drums and howling flutes gives Onibaba a queasy intensity. Shooting in stark black and white, he makes even the waving of the grass look ominous as it all but swallows everyone who enters. --Sean Axmaker
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I Like Horror Movies
can't be silenced by the comforts of sleep...
Your nightmare will surface
Like a good ghost story? They don't get no better than this! This explores the bottomless depths of human morality.
A mother and her daughter-in-law are forced to scrounge for survival. In desperation they murder lost samurai and dump their bodies down a deep mysterious hole in the field. This hole seems to be metaphorical for hell, or purgatory. Very much a holding place for their sins.
When their neighbor returns home from battle, he presents a whole new problem. They soon get swallowed in a vortex of deception, betrayal, lust, and greed.
This is a mesmerizing and chilling tale. Extremely well-written and acted. It has some great philisophical and spiritual statements to ponder. Some dark eroticism to tempt any urges of the flesh. Lots of stark images that will penetrate and absorb into the murky unexplored confines of your imagination.
Seriously, they flat out can't make 'em like this anymore. Highly recommended.
Roughly speaking, `The 60's' only kicked in when the Beatles Landed in America in '64 and ended when the American's landed on the moon five years later. (Were they trying to tell us something?) The so called permissive society emerged from the cultural turbulence of a `swinging London', a `flowered up' San Francisco and a burning Saigon and, as the history books would have it, appeared to challenge everything. Overt sexual, pharmaceutical and political references in entertainment became de rigor and everyone, it seemed, were cutting-edge pioneers at the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Meanwhile on the other side of the planet, and away from `the world', it was just another day at the office for director Kaneto Shindo when he released his haunting sex/death opus Onibaba.
Onibaba (`Demon Hag') is based on a Buddhist fable and tells the story of an old woman and her young daughter-in-law during 14th century feudal Japan (or 16th, or 17th depending on who's website you use to check these things) who live in a seemingly endless swamp of high reeds and survive by murdering lost or renegade Samurai warriors.
They strip their victims of their armour to sell for food then dispose of the bodies in a deep dark ominous hole.
One day a masked stranger is passing and forces the old woman to help him find his way to Kyoto. She asks him why he hides his face behind a creepy demon-Noh mask and he tells her that he is so beautiful it would blind her to look at him. She tricks him by leading him to the hole where he falls in. Her curiosity gets the better of her and she climbs down into the hole littered with her rotting victims to see the man's `beautiful face' which turns out to be more Robin Williams than Robbie Williams. Disappointed, she takes the mask and uses it to disguise herself as a demon to scare her daughter-in-law away from the door of a man she is having an illicit affair with and who, she believes, will run away and leave her alone to fend for herself. The plan backfires when the mask clings to her face turning her into the demon she pretends to be.
The hole is the key element here and is a constant presence throughout the film and seems to represent both the womb and the crypt; the entrance at which life and death pass each other to and from this world and the next. The old woman's desperate venture into the hole for a glimpse of beauty mirrors her hope that perhaps there is still some vestige of beauty within her. Her discovery reveals there isn't, thus setting in motion her `girl who cried demon' comeuppance.
Onibaba's psychosexual symbolism and nudity is treated in an offhand manner, unlike western movies of the period which would, if only they could, have turned this into the films primary selling point. Onibaba rendered the `progressive free West' way behind the game in terms of what was `happening' in an age where taboos were supposed to have been broken every ten minutes. Onibaba was immediately banned on its release in the U.K and only given an `X' certificate in 1968 with cuts. It would be 1994 before we were considered grown up enough to see the uncut version. So much for the `let it all hang out' generation's brave new world.
Most recent customer reviews
Rating = ****
Director: Kaneto Shindou
Film = four (4)...Read more