Pitfall, Teshigahara’s 1962 ‘documentary fantasy’ is a difficult film to describe. It begins with the story of a poor migrant worker and his son, skipping out on an ill paying prospect the worker travels to another mine but discovers he doesn’t have the necessary papers. Despite this he is offered another job, however this turns out not to be the stroke of luck he hopes it might be. A strange man wearing a white suit and gloves begins to follow him and around and eventually spreads confusion throughout this strangely desolate landscape.
The film is deliberately vague and offers no answers to the problems it poses. Though its political intentions are quite clear through the use of actual documentary footage of mining accidents and malnourished children the more surreal aspects remain unexplained. Exactly who is the white suited man, and who (if anyone) has given him his instructions? In this ghost town that is both literal and figurative, where identities are confused and long for events always arrive too late is there something strange and unnatural going on, or is it just the surreality of everyday life? The figure of the boy is also problematic, why does he only react to the death of the man who resembles his father but isn’t? Though perhaps if he’s the type of boy to pull the skin of frogs and watch a rape impassively through a small hole in a wooden wall the answer to this may be self evident. As he runs off alone down the winding road at the end of the film, what or whom is he running from or to. Is it his childish passivity that’s saved him, for the moment at least, from from the adult’s internecine warfare or is it just blind dumb luck that might just be leading him deeper into hell.