I sansernes vold
I am not really into cursing on this blog, but I have to say, this was pretty fucked up, literally.
The Book describes “In the Realm of the Senses” (“Ai no Korida”) as being rather explicit, but I think that is an understatement. In an interview, director Nagisa Oshima called the movie hardcore pornographic and that, I think, is more precise. A Japanese pornographic movie, well, the List is supposed to cover all movies of significance and I suppose that genre was underrepresented.
There really is no hiding it, the movie goes all out right from the start, and the first thing I thought, just a few minutes in, was that they are not holding back here. It is Tokyo in 1936 and Sada (Eiko Matsuda) is a prostitute at a brothel. She has a… very healthy appetite and when the owner of the brothel, Kichizo (Tatsuya Fuji) takes an interest in her, she is so ready. Sexual harassment is just what she has been waiting for and he meets his match in carnal appetite. For the majority of the movie, we watch the two of them have very real, unsimulated intercourse and we see everything.
Eventually it becomes clear that their appetite is not so healthy after all. Their sex becomes wilder, usually they seek spectators, group sex, violent sex and at some point, I believe they killed an old lady Sada wanted Kichizo to have sex with. It becomes obsessive, they are not eating, hardly getting out of bet, just constant sex and Sada becomes jealous that Kichizo may have sex with his wife. They start playing strangulation games and this ends in something I hope I will never see again. Seriously messed up.
The point of the movie is to portrait a couple getting so obsessed about their sexual relationship that they drift off into a tangent to reality and create their own reality. It literally drives them insane. The art, and I suppose the reason this movie is considered special, is that this drift is made into something beautiful, into something we can almost follow. Almost I would say, because it is also batshit crazy.
The look and feel of the movie is gorgeous. The colors are knife sharp and the period sets are just amazing. So are the bodies shown, not just because pretty and clean bodies look better in porn, but because the movie is seeking a certain very clean and smooth aesthetic. It wants to make the sexual would of these two people a desirable place to be, although objectively it should repulse us. Maybe that is the objective of porn objectively, but this movie just takes it so much further. It feels less about gratifying the viewer and more about dragging us along with the couple into their weird tangent.
Sada Abe was a real character who back in 1936 killed her lover and cut off his genitals, but so charmed and fascinated the public that she got away with relatively light punishment. She is, as I understand it, quite a legendary character in Japan and there have been some attempts to tell this juicy story, but I doubt anybody have tried this hard to get into her head. And her body too.
I found it a very disturbing movie. It is very aesthetic, but it is a shocking aesthetic that makes me very uneasy watching it. I feel too close to them and I become one more they have sex in front of. What starts fairly harmless becomes more and more disturbing and by the time we got to the strangulation scenes I had difficulty watching it and the final scene… ugh… as I wrote above, I never want to see that again.
If watching erect penises, semen dripping out of the mouth, food in the vagina and strangulation games is your thing, well, there is a lot for you here, but I cannot honestly call this a pleasant movie. It will take some time to get past this one.