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The Ballad of Narayama
The Ballad of Narayama
Actors: Ken Ogata, Sumiko Sakamoto, Tonpei Hidari, Aki Takejo, Shoichi Ozawa
Director: Sh˘hei Imamura
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Anime & Manga
NR     2008     2hr 10min

"From two-time Palme d'Or-winning director Shohei IMAMURA comes a powerful and unforgettable human drama with exquisite cinematography. A milestone in Japanese Cinema, this film will question your fundamental view of huma...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Ken Ogata, Sumiko Sakamoto, Tonpei Hidari, Aki Takejo, Shoichi Ozawa
Director: Sh˘hei Imamura
Creators: Hiroshi Kanazawa, Masao Tochizawa, Shigeru Komatsubara, Sh˘hei Imamura, Goro Kusakabe, Jiro Tomoda, Shichir˘ Fukazawa
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Anime & Manga
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Family Life, Anime & Manga
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 06/10/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/1983
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1983
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 2hr 10min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 11
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: Japanese
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Imamura's Humanism
unhelpful | 08/26/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Shohei Imamura did something astonishing with his film 'The Ballad of Narayama.' Not only did he attempt to update a popular Japanese legend, he was creating an alternate version of the established classic, made by Keisuke Kinoshita [see Twenty Four Eyes] at the height of his powers. Reverence for the aged is a hallmark of Japanese society, so the ancient tradition of mountain people of exposing their no-longer productive relations on a mountaintop to die is very shocking to the Japanese. Kinoshita addressed the legend in a very stylized way, distancing the viewer from the action and thereby making the actions of these poor people somehow less terrible. Imamura, in stark contrast, emphasized the savagery of the traditional mountain society by parallelling it with the savagery of the natural world in which it, too, must survive. Imamura thereby makes the tradition seem somewhat inevitable and all the more moving because of its inexorability. These people aren't inhuman savages. They are survivors in a harsh environment. Imamura examines character so honestly that the people he depicts are revealed in their true humanity, and their actions are shown to be all the more tragic. A triumph for Imamura."
Interesting character study of a poor community
David Bonesteel | Fresno, CA United States | 11/27/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The story of a small mountain village whose inhabitants must struggle to eke out their meager living. Theft is not tolerated, and the old are left on a mountaintop to die from exposure. This is a fascinating portrayal of how people are sometimes forced by their circumstances to be as merciless as nature itself. It is easy to condemn many of the practices seen in this film, but we are forced to wonder how we might behave if we were similarly deprived. To what extent is our ethics a product of our relatively luxurious lifestyle? It is also interesting to see how various characters face their conditions--some retain their dignity and humanity, while others display what is most ugly and base in human nature."
A Haunting Film Of Survival: Accepting One's Own Mortality!
Ernest Jagger | Culver City, California | 02/12/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

""The Ballad of Narayama," by director Shohei Imamaura, is a very depressing and haunting film. But that is not to say the film is not a great film. The film deals with the harsh realities of life in a 19th Japanese village. This village is small, and more importantly hunger-stricken. The community concerns of survival outweigh the morality of those who must accept their deaths when they reach the age of 70. The villagers in this 19th-century Japanese village must adhere to a very strict policy regarding population control if they are to survive. And what does this mean? Well for starters, the elderly are sent to die near a mountain called Narayama when they reach the age of 70.

This is not a happy film, for the most part, yet the viewer must understand that the very survival of the villagers depend upon survival in its most extreme form. Stealing food in this village means instant death. Truly a disturbing film---yet we must not pass judgment, because for these villagers, their very lives depend on draconian measures. Because starvation is a chronic threat to the villagers, draconian measures must be adhered to. And in this village death is an accepted fact of life. The first time I viewed this film I was very depressed by it, however, viewing it again recently made me understand that these villagers must adhere to strict policies if they are to survive. It is too easy to pass judgment on there villagers: they must do what they can in order to survive. However, there is also humor in this film. But the rather sad fate of those who reach the age of 70, and must accept their death, makes one forget about the humorous parts [at least to me].

The cruel realities of this village are not lost on the viewer. And many may have a difficult time with this film. But it is at least worth a watch. [I own the VHS]. Although it is not one of those films one takes out too often for repeated viewings, it is one that everyone should view at least once. The film centers on the life of one elderly woman named Orin (Sumiko Sakamoto). She is now in her seventieth year of life, and must therefore prepare to die. Her son Tatsuhei (Ken Ogata) has the responsibility of taking his mother up to the base of Narayama to die. This is truly an unforgettable film. This self-sacrifice for the survival of the village will leave a lasting and searing image in your mind, especially as you view Orin about to face her inevitable death. This is not a film one soon forgets after viewing. This film is highly recommended. [Stars: 4.5]"
Despite bestiality and mass-murder, an uplifting tale.
Galina | 09/01/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Life in this small Japanese town 100 years ago simply did not have enought resources for all. So the old had to make way for the young, and thieves would not be tolerated. At the age of 69 the elders were expected to go up to the mountain and die. It was shameful and selfish not to do so. This movie chronicles the struggle of an old woman to prepare her family for her upcoming death. She is worried about them, and even goes as far as knocking out her own teeth in an effort to convince them that she is near death and old, in a horrifyingly funny seen. A great film. A misunderstood masterpiece. I originally saw it at a double bill with dersu uzala, another great film about aging in asia."