Ugetsu monogatari (1953)

by guest writer

Ugetsu Monogatari is a unique film which tells a story placed in the 16th century engaging on such complexity, mixing reality, religion and mystics. Suddenly we are faced with two worlds which coexist: the tangible present of a world at war and the world of apparitions and ghosts. The movie goes back and forth between realism and very stylised lyricism.

By using his best known techniques, such as the long take, the long shot, the pan, a low-key photography and a special camera movement, Kenji Mizoguchi achieves a pictorial composition. The boat scene has been recognised as the most famous segment of the film. Visual elements are blended with distant audio drum beats and guns to emphasize the experience of war and the boundary between supernatural and natural. There is quite a resemblance between the “out of this world” lady Wakasa and the female Noh mask (Noh is a major form of Japanese musical drama used by male actors to impersonate both male and female roles). Mizoguchi’s shot-by-shot alternation provides us with the true identity of the dreamlike character Wakasa. Ugetsu Monogatari reinforces the representation of the rotating wheel as a constant cycle, transcending all human affairs.

photo: still from the film, production credits

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