thu 18/04/2024

DVD: In the Realm of the Senses, Empire of Passion | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: In the Realm of the Senses, Empire of Passion

DVD: In the Realm of the Senses, Empire of Passion

Double dose of disturbing from Nagisa Ôshima

'In the Realm of the Senses': atmospherically overpowering

There’s no doubt that In the Realm of the Senses shocked and still shocks, but after watching this first-ever uncut UK release, it’s hard to figure out what shocks most: the sex, the equation of sex, obsession and death, that all this takes place in a sealed environment ruled by ritual, or whether it’s the revelation that Japanese society could produce a film so opposite to its perceived or received persona. It could also be the fact that it's based on a true story.

Neither 1976's In the Realm of the Senses or Ôshima’s follow up, 1978’s Empire of Passion (although based on a Namura novel, rather than real life, it's still about sexual obsession), are particularly enjoyable, but they are tremendously affecting. Beautiful to look at and effective, too. In the Realm of the Senses is so atmospherically overpowering that it leaves you winded. Ôshima was aware of and attracted by the blurring and misunderstandings of the geisha’s role. The extras here explore that with both those involved in the film and in an academic context.

Empire Of Passion  DVDIn the Realm of the Senses is impossible to watch without attempting to prise its layers apart. It’s also worth noting that the BBFC website shows that its 1991 theatrical cut was 108 minutes – this DVD release runs just short of 98 minutes. That seems too long a difference to be explained by rates of frames per second, and will no doubt be probed and explained by film blogs.

As a fiction, Empire of Passion is the more straightforward film. Also, it was made after In the Realm of the Senses hit international festivals and is consequently less sexually explicit. However, it still disturbs. Its extras echo those of In the Realm of the Senses.

It’s a tribute to the pre-DVD, pre-home video world that both films gained a reputation as highbrow erotica (each is issued as a double play DVD/Blu-ray). Lack of easy access probably fostered that. Instead, now, you realise both are emotional horror films.

Neither film is particularly enjoyable, but both are tremendously affecting


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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