Home > Uncategorized > Ballad of Narayama (1983)

Ballad of Narayama (1983)

A look at life in a rural village in Japan one hundred years ago.  Grandma is looking forward to going up to the top of the mountain where villagers go when they turn 70 to die. Baby boys are left to die, baby girls are sold off, thieves and their families are buried alive. Life can be brutal but Imamura presents it all as just being part of nature.
Before she leaves Grandma is trying to fix up some things with the family. Her elder widowed son must get a new wife. Her second son (a yakko), who like all surviving second sons, is an outcast, but she would like to see him happy too. Her grandson is proud and arrogant and she would like to set him straight before she climbs the mountain.
Combining harsh realism with broad comic relief, Imamura uses many of the techniques of John Ford, although his movie has a darker tint. The movie doesn’t show the lives of the samurai (or calvary or sheriffs) but is instead is interested in portraying how the other half lived.
Making it through the next winter is a question that is on all villagers’ minds. Social customs, as brutal as they may seem, have evolved because they were necessary for survival.
Tatsuhei eventually does bring his mother up to the mountain top and leaves her on Mount Narayama.
I think Imamura is showing us that some older traditions from different societies may seem strange to us today, but our ways may seem just as strange to those in the future.

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