The Ballad of Narayama (1983)
Director: Shôhei Imamura
Writers: Shôhei Imamura, Shichirô Fukazawa
Stars: Ken Ogata, Sumiko Sakamoto, Tonpei Hidari
Runtime: 130 minutes
Plot: In a poor 19th century rural Japanese village, everyone who reaches the age of 70 has to climb a nearby mountain to die. An old woman is getting close to the cut-off age, and we follow her last days with her family.
Review: The director is concerned mainly with the old woman named Orin, whose family includes two grown sons, and assorted grandchildren. Though she's in remarkably good shape, Orin feels that it's time she made the journey to Narayama. She's lived long enough and she's tired. Once she has found a new wife for her widowed son, as well as a woman who will consent to bear a child for the other son, she insists that Tatsuhei, the widower, carry out his obligations to her, the family and the community by making the trip up Narayama and leaving her there to die.
The director puts great store through frames that emphasize the oneness of nature. He's also fond of sequences that announce the changing of the seasons. The winter landscape melts toward spring and climaxes in an explosion of buds and grass, accompanied by the chirping of birds and the babbling of brooks containing frisky trout. Though the performances are good, especially Sumiko Sakamoto's as Orin and Ken Ogata's as Tatsuhei, "The Ballad of Narayama" is too picturesque to reflect the simple austerity of the story it tells.
Reviewed by Mohaiminul Islam