06 April 2009

Movie Review: The Ballad of Narayama

I have no idea how this movie got into my Queue (on Netflix.com), but it did. I watched it this evening avoiding taking a break from my work. Here is the Netflix summary:

Stricken by famine, the residents of a 19th-century Japanese village decide to banish its elderly population to the top of Mt. Narayama, where they will be left to die. One year shy of her exile, the 69-year-old Orin (Sumiko Sakamoto) must settle some old scores. But her top priority is finding a wife for her eldest son (Ken Ogata). Director Shohei Imamura's multilayered lyrical drama won the Palme d'Or at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival

The movie is interesting in itself (since I know almost nothing about 19th century peasant life in Japan), but what struck me, and I decided to write a short blog about, was the figure of Orin and that of the old man that was also left to die in on the Mountain. Orin spends her final year tying up all the loose ends of her responsibilities in life. The old man, however, spends his final year tied up by his children who starve him.

Orin is carried up the mountain per village ritual by her son. She is quiet and helpful. When they get to the top, she sits on a mountain top and begins praying. Her son goes down the mountain and watches (in the trees) the old man struggling not to let go of his son, who has also carried him, bound, up the mountain. The son unable to break the old man's grip easily, ends up pushing him off a cliff where for 12 seconds we watch what looks like the bound old man roll down a cliff side. It begins to snow and Orin's son runs back up to her spot to check on her. She waves him away.

If you were given one year to live, what would you do? Would you tie up the loose ends or would you have your loose ends tie you up?


  1. what the hell is that old man doing with the lady at the image above NIRAYAMA?

    i was like "WHAT?!?is he playing with her?"
    but then again, the plot of the story is pretty nice-leaving old people to die atop mountains.
    i should try that to me annoying grandma lol

    i would definitely tie the loose ends myself :)

  2. that lower picture is one of the many man-on-woman scenes that pepper the story. these are peasants after all. sex, farming and dropping old people off to die at the top of the mountain!

  3. if i had a year left, i would probably tie up all the loose ends. i would probably be very concerned with the memory i'm leaving behind, emulating the likes of mother teresa or the dalai lama. haha or i could bungee jump ala jack nicholson in the bucket list or just disapper off the face of the earth ala luisa in y tu mama tambien.