Follows a woman's fight and survival amid the vicissitudes of life and the cruelty of society.Follows a woman's fight and survival amid the vicissitudes of life and the cruelty of society.Follows a woman's fight and survival amid the vicissitudes of life and the cruelty of society.
She tells her friends how earlier that night an older man had brought her to a home full of young men, displaying her ageing face to the group as a way to convince them not to pay for prostitutes. They ask Oharu about her past, but she doesn't want to talk about it. Visiting a Buddhist temple, she notices that one of the statutes of Buddha bares a striking resemblance to her one and only love, a lowly retainer named Katsunosuke (Toshiro Mifune). Decades earlier, Oharu was a woman of high station, and shunned the advances of the young page simply because society wouldn't allow it. She could not resist true love however, and the two are eventually caught. While he is sent to the chopping block, Oharu's family are stripped of their status and forced to live out in the country. Her father (Ichiro Sugai) blames Oharu, but his attitude changes when she is chosen to produce the heir of Lord Matsudaira (Toshiaki Konoe). However, she is banished after giving birth to a boy to return to a family who will soon sell her into prostitution.
What transpires is a series of cruel punishments inflicted on our protagonist, and tragedy is born out of the fact that Oharu makes few of her own choices. There seems to be no place for true love in this society, something that still effects many countries today. A system seems to be in place that deflects the blame from the men who usher Oharu into these positions. She eventually serves as a maid, but loses her post when she is recognised from her days as a prostitute, and is even turned away from becoming a nun because of her 'sinful' past. The plot may sound like pure melodrama, but Mizoguchi is careful to avoid using broad strokes or losing focus of the larger picture. The camera is mostly still and precise, and also keeps its distance. Mizoguchi isn't interested in grand emotive close-ups - he wants you to see the whole picture as Oharu is shoved through her life like a puppet of little value. Most of us have gone through our lives making choices based on our core values, having the opportunity to stand up against anything that may threaten our moral code. The Life of Oharu is about a character completely stripped of this freedom, and her strength to bend rather than break. It's incredibly bleak stuff, but a masterpiece of measured character study.
- Aug 15, 2018