Goichi Mizoguchi, an aspiring Buddhist monk who became involved in the temple that was owned by his father, through a series of flashbacks, framed as a police interrogation, Mizoguchi ...
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Goichi Mizoguchi, an aspiring Buddhist monk who became involved in the temple that was owned by his father, through a series of flashbacks, framed as a police interrogation, Mizoguchi unravels the story of his obsession with the temple beginning with his childhood.
[looking at the Shukaku temple, which he plans to burn down]
No one... nobody understands me. There's only one thing left to do now. Nobody understands me.
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Themes of isolation, adultery, and religious hypocrisy
Disillusionment and existential themes dominate this film, which opens with the interrogation of a young man who has been charged with burning a temple down. The bulk of the film is then a flashback, where we learn the young man (Raizô Ichikawa) has been mocked for a stuttering problem his entire life. Things don't get any better for him when he's taken on as an apprentice monk by a Buddhist master (Ganjirô Nakamura), who was a friend of his deceased father.
We get our first glimpse of the master's character when we see him peering into a mirror and making himself up prior to letting someone enter his room, which is a small bit of foreshadowing by director Kon Ichikawa. He looks out for the young man and isn't evil per se, but we find that he hasn't given up the vanities of the world either, as he routinely sees a geisha and happily sells admission tickets to the temple. It seems as if this Buddhist temple is a business with 'normal men', not those who sacrifice their desires on a path to enlightenment. Nakamura plays the part well, and with nuance.
Everywhere the young man turns he sees falseness, and it was fascinating to see the themes of isolation, adultery, and religious hypocrisy in this context. "No one understands me," he says while out alone at night, in a universal moment. He alone seems to revere the meaning of the temple and guards it jealousy, in large part because of the teachings and purity of his father. Ichikawa gives us some fantastic shots, including the two of them on a hill, and then later as thousands of small sparks fly up into the air when the temple is on fire. It's a solid, well-made film, but it's also pretty somber, so you may consider that before watching it.
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