Wednesday 1 January 2014

Kuroneko [1968]

With Onibaba Kaneto Shindo created a masterpiece in psychological horror. Though it would be a travesty to consider the two at par, Kuroneko, with its ghost story providing a peek into the heart of darkness and an allegory to the Japan’s war-ravaged medieval past, did form an apt companion piece to the former film. Societal violence, and the ensuing poverty, condition of women, and revenge formed its key themes. Set in the midst of a devastating civil war that has engulfed the country, it begins with a group of renegade samurais making halting at an isolated shack, pillaging the property, brutally ravaging the two women residing there – a young and beautiful lady (Kiwako Taichi) and her mother-in-law (Nobuko Otawa), and burning the place and leaving them for dead on their way out. The sight of the two charred corpses in their burnt-down hut, with a black cat feeding on them, provided a gruesome allegory for the state the country was in. A few months later, the former ragtag warriors who have now moved up the social ladder, start getting seduced to bloody deaths by a mysterious lady. With the situation escalated to the local lord, the lone survivor (Nakamura Kichiemon II) from a battle becomes a hero by chance, and is given the onerous task of bringing the vicious cycle to a stop; incidentally, the ladies were his wife and mother, respectively, and he soon starts falling for the phantom doppelganger of his dead wife. The film’s bleak setting, moodiness and dark undertones were well captured by the atmospheric B/W photography with heavy emphasis on shadows. Despite the artificiality of the proceedings and predictable storyline, it managed to be a brooding tale with incisive social commentaries.

Director: Kaneto Shindo
Genre: Horror
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan


Sam Juliano said...

Yes this is one of the most renowned works of psychological horror and one of the three Shindo masterpieces with ONIBABA and THE NAKED ISLAND. Yes, it is atmospheric, brooding and even poetic and allegorical.

Absolutely beautifully-written piece Shubhajit!

Shubhajit said...

Thanks a lot Sam. I'm yet to watch The Naked Island - got to see it soon given your strong recommendation.