Himiko (1974) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
7 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
A modernist historical fiction
psteier11 November 2002
Warning: Spoilers
An imagined life of the prehistoric Japanese Queen Himiko, based loosely on a few mentions in Chinese chronicles. Himiko is presented as the head priestess of the Sun Goddess cult and a spirit medium. This cult later was used by the Japanese Imperial family as their claim to rule. Himiko is made queen when the king is killed, but lets the men around her rule. She is then deposed and killed because she lusts after her half-brother, who is more interested in Adahime, who supports the Earth Goddess.

Done in modern style, with little effort made to have the costumes, the sets and the lighting be as they would be at the time. The Japanese language and characters' motivation seem modern also.

Butoh dancer Tatsumi Hijikata and members of his troupe seem to add a touch along the lines of what one expects in a Fellini picture, but dance historians may be interested.
13 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Himiko (1974)
mevmijaumau16 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I like movies about shintoism, but it's really surprising how few of them are in circulation. New Wave director Masahiro Shinoda's movie Himiko, winner of the 1974 Strangest Poster Contest, is not a direct recounting of shinto myths, but instead a tweaked, re-imagined biography of shaman queen Himiko, here played by Shinoda's wife Shima Iwashita. Shinoda strays far from official history to create an author's take on power, sexuality and religion, mixing elements from both ancient Chinese and Japanese sources, with an affinity for slight surrealism.

The movie's plot line has some similarities with actual shinto myths, most notably the one where the Sun goddess Amaterasu gets into an argument with her brother Susanoo, so she hides in a cave, letting the world fall into darkness now that she can't provide sunlight anymore. She is then tricked out of the cave and the world becomes bright again. In the film, Himiko falls in love with her half-brother Takehiko, but arguments ensue and she has him killed, while she is kept away from the public eye. She is killed by the courtmen and replaced by an oracle girl, who raises the mirror (Amaterasu's symbol) and proclaims that she is indeed Himiko, who likely got reincarnated. The camera pans way back and up, to reveal a contemporary landscape to remind of the history's progress through repetition.

Of course, that's not all. Shinoda's film is also a comment on patriarchy and the gap between sexuality and political/religious duties. The first scene of the film even has Himiko indulge in a ritual where she orgasms by having the mirror reflect the sunlight on her genitals. While the film is cryptic, it's not outright undecipherable, and the sheer amount of exposition thankfully helps not to get completely lost in the world of inside shinto-references, with kabuki and butoh elements (butoh dancer Tatsumi Hijikata and the members of the troupe also appear in the film). The music was done by Toru Takemitsu, a frequent collaborator with Shinoda.

The movie's visual style is amazing. It's like a mixture of Eastern mysticism, Jodorowsky and Fellini in his surreal period. The outrageous costumes and the red-white color palette, the shadow play, the expressionistic color compositions - wow. I also really liked the design of Himiko's palace, really stunning. I was also impressed by the image of Takehiko standing in the forest with a dozen arrows through him, or of Himiko in that beautiful shaman dress/make-up, visiting the forest with her servants.
8 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The distant past, seen through a Modernist lens
kurtralske24 June 2020
Really excellent film. There's a very rare subgenre of historical films: ones that aim to bring to life ancient times...but not by an "authentic" recreation of the past -- instead, the director uses experimental/modernist cinematic techniques to bring traditional folklore and beliefs firmly into relation with the present. Examples include "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors" (1965, Paradjanov), "Marketa Lazerova" (1967, Vlacil), "The Night of Counting the Years" (1969, Chadi Abdel Salam). Like these, "Himoko" powerfully reanimates dormant cultural world-views, and is particularly successful at connecting them to our era.

"Himoko" retells an ancient Japanese legend of a shaman-queen. The story is timeless and "universal", yet the world of "Himoko" is a particular Shinto animist world, in which gods of the sun and the land directly control people's lives. The viewer is pulled into the past, by the beautiful unspoiled forest and mountain landscapes, the peoples' costumes and rituals, and most powerfully by the intensity of the performances -- especially Shima Iwashita as Himoko, whose extraordinary performance conveys the fervid complete conviction of shamanistic beliefs. (My new favorite Japanese actress!)

But the viewer is also pushed into the present. The director Shinoda does not try to fool the viewer with an "authentic" past: the indoor scenes are staged in a space resembling a theatrical set or art gallery, with clearly unnatural (but beautifully dramatic) lighting. A troupe of five Butoh dancers perform stunning, horrifying, evocative dance-rituals throughout, acting sometimes as a Greek chorus outside the story-space, at other times directly involved in the action. And the film's coda breaks the fourth wall, making it plain that Shinoda is less interested in the distant past, than the way that ancient things still live within the present.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Another Japanese cinematic piece of art from the previous century.
punishmentpark9 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
First off: much thanks to IMDb users mevmijaumau and psteier for their enlightening reviews on 'Himiko'. Personally, I couldn't think of more than 'Shakespearian' as far as the story is concerned. And the ending must have inspired M. Night Shyamalan for 'The village' (2004), right?

Back to 'Himiko'. A wonderful, but rather extreme (violence, incest) tale of a couple of Japanese clans who are at war with each other. Was it just the 'land' people versus the 'sun' people? I thought there were 'mountain' in there, too? Or are they the same as the 'land' people? I'm not sure, as I am unsure about many other details. A good excuse to watch it again sometime, because beyond the story, this is a terrific, vivid piece of cinema that deserves to be seen more than once.

I especially enjoyed the various costumes (the court men, or the ones 'dressed in grass'), but also the settings and the long, impressive monologues and the elaborate punishment (of Takehiko) scene. But perhaps that is unfair toward all the other scenes, because it was all captivating.

An impressive ancient tale with a modern twist at the end. 9 out of 10.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
XxEthanHuntxX4 July 2021
The sheer perfection, through out the whole movie, of aesthetical elememts, such as: costumes, sets, makeup and theatrical physical performances - is absolutely astounding. The story is very much worthy its scenery but less audacious and abstract then other japanese new wave movie and thus, for me personally, makes for a great single watch but tedious at a second.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Ludicrous and Indecipherable!
net_orders30 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
HIMIKO. Viewed on Streaming. Restoration/preservation = ten (10) stars; cinematography and lighting = ten (10) stars; set design = ten (10) stars; subtitles = eight (8) stars; music = three (3) stars; choreography = one (1) star. Director Masahiro Shinoda (who is also credited as co-writer) presents his take on the life and times of the ancient Sun Goddess Himiko (a shaman/medium and translator for the Sun God) who actually existed and ruled a chunk of Japan circa 200 AD. It seems to be a time of many deities limited only by the imaginations and political ambitions of those who invented them. The photo play deals with several including the Sun God, the Land God, and the Mountain God. Perhaps the most influential deity, however, is the Drug Dealer God! The cast and especially the "dancers" often seem to be high (and the film was made during the psychedelic 1970s!). Shinoda depicts the Queen as having epileptic fits and simulated orgasms (and, perhaps, drug trips) when making predictions and speaking for the Sun God. The Director also tosses in incest (Himiko seduces her half-brother) and ceremonial on-the-go orgies. There are many scenes of women with white-painted faces wearing spotless white robes wandering around the forest (rural homeless geisha prototypes?). Overall, this is a Kabuki-like play striving to be a Shakespearian-like tragedy, not a movie. Acting is so-so with most "dialog" consisting of voice-over expositions. Sort of like listening to a radio play of years ago. Surprisingly, this cinematic nonsensical mess boasts excellent cinematography (narrow screen, color) and lighting plus drop-dead art direction and set design. Interiors consist of eye-popping surreal art deco sets (about 1,700 years ahead of their time!). Restoration/preservation is outstanding. Subtitles are close enough. Music is unimaginative and consists of one or a few instruments. It stays in the background (where it belongs!). Choreography is a grade-school-level joke! A film that gives history a bad name! Highly unrecommended. WILLIAM FLANIGAN, PhD.
2 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Surreal story with decent technic
tomyargo4 September 2022
Warning: Spoilers
Himiko, Japanese ruler in history. Was she a tyrant, goddess or devil? Who was Queen Himiko?

Director used new lenses and shot very nice scenes. Camera angles, movements color and light used very elegant and sophisticated way for the age of the movie. This movie is not 'B' class movie for sure. However, it is clear they have some budget limitations and primitive aspects. For example the war scene.

Music of the movie mostly help increase the tension, modern (for it's time) squeaky sounds (clearly I didn't like). Make up sometimes looks funny rather than impressive, but sometimes so elegant and effective. Acting moderate, some charters really amateur but some characters very successful.

The movie has embedded a lot of Japanese culture folk motives inside, like a side note. Contrast, the characters show us not only Japanese but in general human desires, feelings, shortcomings etc. Example: movie has very patriarchal tone, male characters strong and decisive. However, they are not praised, they have own fault and weaknesses.

The story evolve around Queen (holy) Himiko and her forbidden love with brother (incest is not a key tune, there is more important things happening) and jealousy, ambition, prejudice surround them. In the movie, there is the sun believers represent Japanese people, and the Wei is China. Political perspective is also interesting: how Japanese people see or define themselves at that time? There is clues hidden if we look with that perspective.

This is definitely an 'Art House' movie in every way. If you like Japanese culture, colors, geography, history, modern dance etc. You may enjoy and ignore the movies' weak areas. If you like art house, this is really very surreal and artistic piece, so I highly recommend.

Personally, I like the taste of the movie. It is not a masterpiece but definitely decent.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed