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The Ballad of Narayama (1958)

Narayama bushikô (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | 19 June 1961 (USA)
A kabuki theatre-inflected story about a poor village whose people have to be carried to a nearby mountain to die once they get old.


Keisuke Kinoshita
6 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Kinuyo Tanaka ... Orin
Teiji Takahashi ... Tatsuhei
Yûko Mochizuki ... Tamayan
Danko Ichikawa ... Kesakichi
Seiji Miyaguchi ... Mata-yan
Keiko Ogasawara Keiko Ogasawara ... Matsu-yan
Yûnosuke Itô ... Matayan's son
Eijirô Tôno ... Messenger
Ken Mitsuda Ken Mitsuda ... Teruyan


In Kabuki style, the film tells the story of a remote mountain village where the scarcity of food leads to a voluntary but socially-enforced policy in which relatives carry 70-year-old family members up Narayama mountain to die. Granny Orin is approaching 70, content to embrace her fate. Her widowed son Tatsuhei cannot bear losing his mother, even as she arranges his marriage to a widow his age. Her grandson Kesa, who's girlfriend is pregnant, is selfishly happy to see Orin die. Around them, a family of thieves are dealt with severely, and an old man, past 70, whose son has cast him out, scrounges for food. Will Orin's loving and accepting spirit teach and ennoble her family? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Not Rated | See all certifications »

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This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #645. See more »


Remade as The Ballad of Narayama (1983) See more »

User Reviews

Tragic tradition
12 February 2009 | by valadasSee all my reviews

This is the story of an old woman who according to customary tradition of the remote Japanese village where she lives, must be carried by his son to the top of the neighbouring Narayama mountain to meet the gods and die since she has reached 70 years of age. Behind this tradition who seems awful to our western minds, lies the fact that the community is too poor to be able to support its old people. But tradition doesn't always subjugate human feelings and if the old woman shows herself as resigned to her fate and even displays some joy in fulfilling the tradition rules, his son feels a deep sorrow in accomplishing that terrible duty and while doing it he must fight in his heart and mind to subdue those loving and compassionate feelings. The scene at the top of the mountain when he is carrying his mother and ends up by laying her on the ground where soon snow begins to fall is intensely tragic in its silence interrupted now and then by the outbursts of the powerless and extremely emotional son's revolt. All along the film we hear to the voice off of a commentator who narrates the story accompanied by a beautiful traditional Japanese music. This commentator's performance reminds us of the role of the chorus present in ancient Greek tragedies. The images make us think of the traditional Japanese paintings with their patches of neat colours making a somewhat theatrical scenery. This movie gives way to deep emotions although not exposed with our kind of western reactions but with Japanese type ones which doesn't make them appear less human.

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Release Date:

19 June 1961 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ballad of Narayama See more »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

Shochiku See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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