With an arresting mix of eroticism and horror, Oshima plunges the viewer into a nightmarish tale of guilt and retribution in Empire of Passion (Ai no borei). Set in a Japanese village at the end of the nineteenth century, ... more »the film details the emotional and physical downfall of a married woman and her younger lover following their decision to murder her husband and dump his body in a well. Empire of Passion was Oshima?s only true kaidan (Japanese ghost story), and the film, a savage, unrelenting experience, earned him the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival.« less
"This movie is probably the most erotic film that I've seen to date (pornos notwithstanding). It is a movie about obsession and what can happen when it gets out of control, something that this movie demonstrates well. However, I wished the movie had delved into the background of the characters, especially Sada's. If the audience watching this film knew about Sada's past, where she was raped and then outcaste by her wealthy family because of it, I think the audience would have a better understanding about the reason for Sada's behavior. Still, despite that and an undeveloped plot, the movie is still entertaining. However, if you want to see a more sanitized version of this story, which is based on an actual event that took place in Tokyo in 1936, then get "A Woman Called Sada Abe", which is available on both VHS and DVD. From what I've heard, it doesn't have nearly as much sex and nudity as "In the Realm of the Senses", which is a good thing for people who are easily offended by it. Personally, I liked the sex scenes, which I felt were tasteful and elegant, unlike what would normally be found in a pornographic movie. There was a lot of emotion displayed in those scenes, and that gave it a certain romantic, authentic dimension to it. For that reason alone, I will watch it again and again."
Mark Norvell | HOUSTON | 10/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an amazing film to watch. Not only is it beautifully filmed but the atmosphere is quite vivid in its' depiction of a Japanese servant girl who becomes mistress of the master of the house and sexually obsessed with their relationship. She leads him deeper into the sexual realm until it becomes the focus of both their lives. Their relationship becomes so intense that it can only lead to destruction. Film is extremely sexually graphic and to be honest, I wasn't even aware that I was watching "pornography" because the acting and story were so mesmerizing. By then, I didn't care because it wasn't offensive---just honest. The two leads are wonderful actors and they made me forget I was watching a supposedly one-time controversial film. The film is supposedly based on a true incident. The ending is shocking and depressing but that's allegedly what happened. I consider this film a classic and a must see for foreign film buffs. It's one of the most beautiful erotic love stories ever made and one of the most disturbing."
Serious Minded Erotica......
email@example.com | Denver, Colorado USA | 12/19/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Nagisa Oshima has achieved what few other directors have managed in dealing with the very touchy subject of sex, in this instance, with sexual obsession. If you plan to watch this movie for a cheap sexual thrill, you will be most disappointed. Oshima has drawn from a real incident reported in a 1936 Japanese newspaper. The film centers around the love between two people expressed physically, graphically, into realms of the senses where few dare to tread. And with good reason. This is a very intense film as it progresses from the attraction of two people through increasing experimentation in an effort not only to express their passion but to try to find the outer most limits of passion itself. Oshima must have had something metaphorical in mind but the journey as chronicled in the film also has retained the feel of the specifics. It's quirkey and eccentric. The backdrop of the story is as interesting as the story itself. It is an amazing spectacle to observe, giving the viewer a perspective on Japanese life not usually rendered but often alluded to in some historical accounts. One wonders what this experience must have been like for the actors. Oshima has managed what I have always believed should be done in order to treat the subject of sex fully and without shrinking from its' less savory aspects. This is serious minded erotica and quite unlike anything else on screen. The only other film I can recall that compares at all is "Taxi Zum Klo" which was autobiographical and starred a number of actual people playing themselves.Obviously a different catagory in that regard from what is going on here, but both films draw much of their power from explicitly sexual scenes without compromising the integrity of the story being told. This is a film experience that should not be missed."
A rock and a hard place
Mark Norvell | 04/18/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Fox-Lorber has devised a new level of cruelty for fans of this film. You can have a full-screen version with subtitles or a widescreen version with dubbing. What you need is a widescreen version with subtitles. The dubbing turns this dark parable into a sleazy porno film. The images are carefully and beautifully composed - you don't need them chopped up by pan and scan. In addition, the English language version (the only one I've seen) has horrible 'ghosting' along the edges of any high-contrast contour - it looks like it was dubbed from a poor over-the-air tv transmission! It's also slightly censored - not the version I saw overseas, anyway...Until someone offers a decent DVD version of this film, I recommend passing on these insultingly inferior transfers."
Passionate and Erotic
Amos Lassen | Little Rock, Arkansas | 01/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
""In the Realm of the Senses"
Passionate and Erotic
Everyone who has seen the Japanese film "In the Realm of the Senses" has an opinion, no one seems to have neutral feelings about it. Now we have a new Criterion edition that is loaded with extras that enhance one of the most erotic mainstream movies ever made. Until lately the film has been banned or available only in censored versions but now we have the original film just as it was made in the 1970's. Some have hailed it as art while others dismiss it as porn and in reality; it seems to me to be a combination of both. It is serious and it is voyeuristic and prurient. It is not quite a masterpiece but it deserves to be seen as an extreme and taboo breaking film. Once we get past the explicitness there is a real story here with a subtle political context as it deals with the rise of Japanese militarism and nationalism. There is a great deal of explicit sexual contact. The characters are self- destructive and dangerous and sex becomes an expression of their inhumanity. Sada and Ishida share a passion foe sex. Sada is the more aggressive of the two and she is both possessive and inflammatory. Ishida is relaxed and submissive and just soaks it all up. As the two fall downward into depravity and self-destruction everything is thrown onto the screen and at us. The film is audacious and it overwhelms but it is so much more than just sex. It examines a world of experimentation and pain as it takes us on a voyage to the unknown. The film deals with the search for fulfillment and pleasure in a world where nothing else matters and reality is discarded. Sada and Ishida separate themselves from all that is real because they know that in order to find true happiness, they must transcend al levels of consciousness and reality. They feel that a few wonderful moments are worth more than any heartache that might follow. "In the Realm of the Senses" is a dark and disturbing psychological drama about sexual obsession. It is masterfully directed by Nagisa Oshima and he is known for shocking his audience and doing so usually by confronting bourgeois sensibilities or an accepted view of society or history. Here he added the sexual element and for me it works beautifully. The DVD extras include an audio commentary with film scholar Tony Rayns, an interview with the director and lead actors from 1976 an interview with producer, line director, film distributor and assistant director, a new interview with actor Tatsuya Fuji, deleted scenes, improved subtitles and lots of full frontal nudity. "