Shōhei Imamura’s 1983 The Ballad of Narayama is our film club‘s feature for this October. It could be described as a movie about birth, death and the social norms that govern our lives in between.
The film is based on Shichirō Fukazawa’s 1956 novel of the same title and also borrows somewhat from Keisuke Kinoshita’s 1958 kabuki film adaptation of the same which is also titled The Ballad of Narayama.
The story is set in a small poor Japanese rural village in the 19th century. According to a village tradition necessitated by the scarcity of resources, once a person reaches the age of 70 he or she must be carried off to a nearby mountain to be left to die of starvation (see the custom of ubasute). The film follows Orin, a perfectly healthy 69-year-old woman who makes preparations for her own departure, arranging the affairs of both her family and the village.
The Ballad of Narayama film won the Palme d’Or at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival, as well as being awarded for the Best Film, Best Actor (Ken Ogata) and Best Sound by the Japanese Film Academy in the 1984 award ceremony.
Although the film’s availability is slightly worse than what it was back when we created our film club schedule, the film is available both in Europa and North America. Do note that especially in the US stores, the first search results with the film’s title tend to be for the Criterion edition of the 1958 film, not the 1983 version by Imamura. Although having said that, the 1958 film is definitely also worth checking out.
Our next month’s film will be Kurosawa’s Ran. The full schedule can be found at the film club page.
Image: A Polish poster The Ballad Ballad of Narayama, from MovePosterDB.com