Oshima’s notoriously graphic “In the Realm of the Senses”


I knew where Ôshima’s notorious “In the Realm of the Senses” (Ai no korîda, 1976) was going long before starting to watch it.  After years of avoiding watching it, I buckled up my seatbelt and screened it. I found it excruciatingly slow and just plain excruciating. Not arousing at all, though it ignored the Japanese ban, even in pinku eiga/ poronographic films, on showing pubic hair, not to mention erect penises; there was also a dildo unmistakable shown penetrating another woman (a geisha being initiated by geishas). The movie has never been publicly shown in Japan even forty years after it was made. (The film stock could not even be processed in Japan and Ôshima was prosecuted, though acquitted, of obscenity.)

Some of the woman-riding-the-man scenes must have involved a prosthesis. Though Fuji Tatsuya’s member is not small, it is not big enough to be visible in some of the shots of intercourse with Matsuda Eiko. Oddly, to me it looked circumcised.


I don’t know that Ôshima intended a cautionary tale about s&m getting more and more extreme. That in the movie may be consensual, but is definitely not safe or sane. Rather, it is desperate and compulsive and surely must disgust males, however voyeuristic (maybe not all females).

 One might ask if Kichi is any more self-destructive than the nation, ca. 1936, and the soldiers he meets marching in one scene. The kamikaze pilots and soldiers determined not to surrender also consented to their annihilation, I guess.

Donald Richie, ca. 2006, wrote: ‘It is this insistence upon alienation that makes In the Realm of the Senses one of the least sexually exciting of sexually explicit films. The couple does not, despite the frequency of their couplings, intend to inflame their audience. It is their political predicament that Ôshima wishes to portray. Sada and Kichizo may have found their sexual identity, but they are alienated from their society. They find security only at an inn where they are not known; he does no work at all, she “works” only just enough to keep them alive. They are indeed antisocial and engage in antisocial acts.’

 Richie also reported that the real Sada and Kichizo were together only for six days; Ôshima lengthened that time period to six months.


©2016, Stephen O. Murray

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