Pandemonium (Shura)

Matsumoto once said that if Funeral Parade of Roses was filmed in white, this was filmed in black. It’s certainly a very bleak and unsettling film with its dreamlike horror and sense of inevitability. The film begins with a sort of vision sequence where the protagonist comes home to find a tangled mess of body parts, followed by bodies, followed by the lifeless corpse of the woman he loves and a man hanging from the ceiling. Later he is visited by a former servant who’s arrived with the news that 47 of his fellow samurai (yep, THAT 47) plan to rise against their cruel master and that his former serfs and peasant folk have clubbed together and raised the money for him to take his rightful place alongside them.

Overcome with joy and relief Gengobe takes the money and pledges to go to the town the next morning and join his comrades. However, he’s also gotten himself mixed up with a courtesan who has other ideas and urges Gengobe to spend this money on her freedom so that they might marry. At first Gengobe sticks to his duty but fearing for the courtesan’s life he gives in and squanders the money on her. Of course, as it turns out there’s more to this woman and her, er pimp?, than first thought. Gengobe has been conned out of the money so many people made big sacrifices to get him and now there’s no way he’ll be able to fulfill his samurai duties. Hurt, humiliated, ruined, Gengobe has nothing left to live for and this pushes him into a dangerous mania for revenge that trails behind him a wake of scattered corpses.

Chilling. Somehow the atmosphere of this film is so completely unsettling you feel the cold rising through your bones just sitting in the cinema seats. There’s no other word for the world of this film than hell. It’s not a horror film, it’s not the violence or the blood that’s upsetting, it’s the sheer oppressive atmosphere of despair. A claustrophobia of fate. It’s this that stays with you, an odd feeling of inevitable doom.

Not a pleasant a film to watch then, but a very impressive one.

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