Hadaka no shima (The Naked Island, Japan, 1960)

A Sisyphean task

A Sisyphean task

Although this film (inevitably) reminds me of others it also seems unique. There’s no dialogue, there are a few songs and plenty of sound, and nothing happens until 28 minutes into the film. By that I mean, there’s no sense of a narrative ‘problem’ until then. This happening? A bucket of water is dropped. And it’s not a ‘narrative problem’ in the normal sense; the ‘disruption’ is the characters’ whole existence. But dropping the water  is a ‘big deal’ as it has to be carried up a hill (above) having been transported from another island:

The Naked Island can be regarded as an oblique representation of hibakusha cinema in the endless toiling of a seemingly inutile, barren land: a bittersweet, poetic elegy for Shindo’s dying ancestral vocation on a rural, isolated island. (Aquarello, 2006)

It reminded me most of Terra trema (Italy, 1948), a neo realist film portraying existence on an inhospitable island. Unlike the neo realist films, Shindo Kaneto directs in a highly stylised fashion with a beautifully composed Cinemascope and monochrome mise en scene. This stylisation seemed to me to be slightly ‘at odds’ with the, at times, brutal life portrayed. It seemed that the film was celebrating the ‘close to hostile nature’ life of the protagonists; however, it isn’t quite that simple.

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