Deals with the intolerably hard life of a family of four, the only inhabitants of a very small Japanese island in the Setonaikai archipelago. Several times a day they row over to the neighboring island to fetch water for their miserable fields.Written by
Michael Jurich <firstname.lastname@example.org>
On a tiny island in the Seto Inland Sea, a small family consisting of husband, wife, and two sons, struggle to get by. They are the island's sole inhabitants, and spend their days fetching water from the mainland and carrying up the steep hill in order to water their crops. One day when the mother and father are away from the island, one of the sons falls ill, and the father races to get help. Their lives are all portrayed in painstaking detail, and the film contains no dialogue whatsoever. The film is directed by Kaneto Shindo, who directed the two brilliant Japanese New Wave horror films, Kuraneko and Onibaba, the only two other films of his I've seen.
This is a break in style and subject for Shindo. The two aforementioned horror films were similarly slow and detailed, but The Naked Island contains no action or atmosphere, but certainly shares their beauty. This is a film that shows how far humanity can be pushed in order to merely get by. The climax of the film (and I don't feel I'm ruining anything by revealing it, the story is not important) has their ill son dying, as his father and the doctor arrive too late. After the funeral, they are forced back to work. The mother, needing to grieve, throws down the water and screams into the ground, as the father watches helpless. Afterwards, she gets up, and methodically resumes watering.
Shindo tackles a universal subject with the neglect of the working class. Filmed with no dialogue, it emphasises their facial expressions and body movements in a way the silent era did, and forces the audience to live through the work they do, every step at a time. The director said he wanted to "capture the life of human beings struggling like ants against the forces of nature," and he certainly does that. The film is slow, and focuses a lot of time on the struggle of carrying the water up the hillside. Yet it's filmed with such elegance, it only hammers their struggle home. This is a beautiful and moving film, that is almost brutal in its relentlessness.
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