“Water, water, everywhere, but ne’re a drop to drink!”: Shindô’s “The Naked Island”

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The Naked Island” (Hadaka no shima, directed by Shindô Kaneto, 1960) recalls the staged “documentaries” of Robert Flaherty, though not purporting to be a documentary and using actors familiar to Shindô’s audience.*

There is not a single spoken line in the movie, but lots of striking shots of a small island that has no water (Sukune). The couple who live there with their two young sons have to carry water across from a larger island (Sagashima) and up a steep, rocky path to dole out some for their crops of sweet potatoes and wheat.

A lot of the movie is crossing the water of the Inland Sea and climbing up carrying two pails of water each, on a yoke. As much as I admired the photography (of Kuroda Kiyomi), I thought the total lack of any verbalization — particularly that of the rambunctious young boys (who never walk when they can run) and the summoning of a physician when the older boy is ill — to be unnatural.

BTW, elemental as the couple’s struggle to raise crops is, their crops are for the market, not to provide them food (subsistence agriculture). The four of them go to a city and, among other things, marvel at a television.

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*Shinodas wife, Otowa Nobuko, who also starred in “Onibaba” under his direction) played the mother, and Tonoyama, Tajii who played the father, was a veteran of Shindô movies, reputedly recovered his health on the shoot, because there was no alcohol to be had there. Shindô wrote a biography on which he based a biopic about Tonoyama, which was made into a movie, “Sanmon Yakusha,” 2000).

 

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BTW, I don’t know why some of my texts land in boldface in large font and others don’t. And if someone knows how to delete a blog here, I could ease the confusion (mostly of myself) from having created two when I was floundering starting a blog. So far, I have written about movies written and/or directed by Kurosawa Akira and works by Natsume Soseski. Next up, after Shindô’s “Onibaba,” are discussions of films directed by Ichikawa Kon and books by Dazai Osamu.

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