[Review] Onibaba [Movie]

And now for something different… I am not only a fan of RPG of different types and a little wannabe publisher but also into movies. My taste is a mix of the mainstream movies one would expect a typical westworld-guy to like, bad movies like Razorblade Smile and Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity and, among other things, old Japanese black&white movies with a plot set in the time of Samurai and Shogun. My latest purchase in that department was Onibaba, and this is my brief review of the title…


Feudal Japan, during a big civil war (it is never mentioned, but I guess that it is the time period that later became known as the Onin War). A peasant woman and her daughter-in-law hide from the ongoing battles in a hut within a reed field near a river. They cannot work their fields as marauding samurai and ronin would likely kill them as the war rages on. Deprived of their regular means of subsistence the two woman started to lure wounded and fleeing soldiers and samurai into traps. After they have killed them they sell their belongings to a local merchant for food. The corpses they drop into a nearby natural hole in the large reef field, leading several meters down. Both have accustomed to this lifestyle and simply go on, waiting for the end of the war and for their husbands to return.

One day Hachi, a friend of the son of the older woman, returns. He has fled from the battle and the army and tells them that his friend, who fled along with him, was slain. Tension arises quickly between the three, as the older woman feels that Hachi, who is ruthless and animalistic, is after the younger woman and that she might fall for the man, especially as he told her that her husband is dead. If the young woman would leave her for Hachi, the older woman would be unable to go on as she fears that she cannot kill a man on her own. So both Hachi and the other woman want the younger one, both for their own reasons and tragedy ensues.

The film has a lot going for it, but one ultimate flaw. First, let´s see what is good about the movie:

It features good actors, who refrain from the over-acting otherwise typical to many Asian movies, and make a good job in delivering the feelings and motivations of their characters. Especially the actress portraying the younger woman makes great use of her mimic, and when you have spend some Saturday evenings watching SyFy-Channel flicks, you will find this to be close to an epiphany. The camera work is excellent as well and the movie was obivously shot with great pictures in mind. In some of the scenes you simply want to hit the PAUSE button, get a snapshot and order a large photo poster of what is currently captured on screen.But, as mentioned, the movie is not without its flaws either.

Some elements used to drive home a certain message or feel are overused. This is especially true for the reed field itself, used in the film as a kind of metaphor for both isolation, unrest and inner turmoil. It -is- great for this and the pictures ARE great, but enough is simply enough. But the one ultimate flaw is the end. It is no real spoiler if I say that the film is not having one. It simply ends. There is no final solution of the conflict the film has build up, and that is very unsatisfying. With the three characters that make up the mix and what they are (or have become), one would have expected a real crescendo at the final. But sadly this isn´t happening although the buildup is there.

So, I am sad to say that I cannot recommend the movie.


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