Previously at the ICA - Films

Ballad of Narayama, Shoei Imamura, 1983

Ballad of Narayama

28 Sep 201129 Sep 2011

Winner of the Cannes Palme d’Or in 1983, this beautifully restored Shohei Imamura (The Eel, Pigs and Battleships) classic, adapted from a Shichiro Fukazawa novel, is a morally complex earthy delight. Set in Narayama, a fictional village in which the elderly willingly embrace death on turning seventy to keep the community's population and resources in balance. The film follows a sixty-nine year old grandmother as she spends a year preparing for her terminal trek up the face of unforgiving Mount Nara into the hands of the Gods. What sounds on paper like an absurdist melodrama is treated with rigor and a complete lack of sentimentality as the grandmother puts her affairs in order. Beginning with selecting a wife for her widowed eldest son, she encourages her middle son to have sex for the first time, and engineers a plan to cut her annoying grandson down to size while all the time preparing coolly for her own death. Shocking, humorous and full of questions – not least whether this peculiar isolated society treats its community any better than we do with all our Big Society ambitions. A tremendous affecting leap of imagination by one of cinema’s greatest filmmakers.

Dir: Shoei Imamura, Japan, 1983, Japanese with English subtitles, 18 cert, 131mins (Blu-ray)

Cast: Ken Ogata, Sumiko Sakamoto, Takejo Aki

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