SHINJû TEN NO AMIJIMA
Doppelselbstmord In Amijima
SHINJû TEN NO AMIJIMA
, 104min, OmeU
Shinoda Masahiro has made more than twenty-four films since his directorial debut in 1960. Among them, <i>Shinjû ten no Amijima </i>(Double Suicide) is considered to be his most experimental film. The film is based upon Chikamatsu Monzaemons puppet play of the same title. Chikamatsu, who brought the <i>kabuki</i> and <i>bunraku</i> theaters to full maturity during the Genroku era (16881703), excelled in domestic tragedy. The focal point of this genre is the clash between <i>giri </i>(social obligation) and <i>ninj</i><i>ô</i><i> </i>(personal emotion) within individuals in the feudal society in which Chikamatsu lived. A number of Shinodas predecessors also made films that were inspired by Chikamatsus domestic tragedies. Among these were Mizoguchi Kenjis <i>The Crucifie</i><i>d Lovers </i>(Chikamatsu monogatari, 1954) and Imai Tadashis <i>Night Drum </i>(Yoru no tsuzumi, 1958).
However, what distinguishes <i>Shinjû ten no Amijima</i><i> </i>from these two films is Shinodas synthesis of traditional and modern elements. While faithfully exploring Chikamatsus theme of the individual torn between <i>giri </i>and <i>ninj</i><i>ô</i><i>, </i>Shinoda overtly brings in scenes of sexual encounter. He also incorporates both <i>bunraku</i> and <i>kabuki</i> techniques such as the <i>kurogo </i>and the rotating screen and invests them with new functions. These aspects of Shinodas ingenuity have already been treated by a number of Japanese critics. Yet the unique aspect of <i>Shinjû ten no Amijima</i><i> </i>is<i> </i>Shinodas use of three images: the lattice windows and checked walls, the water, and the <i>kurogo. </i>The way Shinoda presents these images is just as crucial as what they signify. Although, at first glance, Shinoda appears to present the same Buddhist world view revealed in Chikamatsus original, the subtle interaction of these symbols with the films thematic development, especially in the final sequence, illustrates the entirely different world view. This is one of the aspects of the film that makes Shinodas version nakedly modern.