The Naked Island

by guest writer

The Naked Island 1960

The Naked Island (1960) will probably seem to many of you not likely to have been made in the sound era. Entirely written by director Kaneto Shindô, the movie places itself on one of the many small islands part of the Setonaikai Archipelago in Japan. The drama of the inhabitants of those islands is the core of the film. Sometimes giving the impression of a purely documentary artifact, The Naked Island achieves more than that through powerful visual elements conducted by cinematographer Kiyomi Kuroda. Even the most awful drought becomes a symbol of human endurance. The landscapes captured by camera, with its low angles, deep focus and wonderful crisp black and white, create a similar artistic achievement to F.W. Murnau’s last masterpiece, Tabu (1931).

When they bring water in their small fishermen boat for the plants they grow on the island, Toyo (Nabuko Otawa) and Senta (Taiji Tonoyama) paddle in such a manner that shows their deep involvement with their family’s welfare. You get the notion that the actors are non-professional due to their natural performances that make you believe they are real peasants. I was staggered to discovered that all of them were professionals. The movie’s poetic and lyrical feel is also amplified by the fact that the film is almost silent. No more than 2 minutes of speaking can be heard in more than 90 minutes. The childhood is another element presented in such a beautiful and tragic way, which makes the film unique. Hikaru Hayashi composed the soundtrack of the movie which completes this worldwide cinematic treasure. The music plays when needed and in a meaningful and touching way.

photo: still from the film / credit: Kindai Eiga Kyokai

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