Empire Of Passion

Empire Of Passion


Reviewed by: Paul Logan

After the controversial In The Realm Of The Senses, acclaimed director Nagisa Ôshima returned to theatres with this less explicit follow up - a dramatic ghost story.

The year is 1895, in a remote mountain village in Japan, a young soldier Toyiji (Tatsuya Fuji) has an affair with the fortysomething wife of the litter carrier Seki (Kazuko Yoshiyuki). Toyiji becomes jealous of her husband Gisaburo (Takahiro Tamura) and plots with Seki to kill him. They strangle him and dump his body inside a well in the woods. For three years the wife and her lover secretly see each other and the locals start to gossip. To make matters worse, Gisaburo’s ghost begins to haunt her and the police arrive to investigate the husband's disappearance.

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While Empire Of Passion is not quite as entertaining as the art house hit In The Realm Of The Senses, there are many things to recommend. The film is beautifully shot, as audiences would expect from Ôshima. A dark bleak fog-filled landscape gives a sense of grim foreboding and evokes a supernatural, creepy atmosphere that fits in with the theme.

The performances are captivating, especially from Yoshiyuki, who is bewitching and keeps her essentially unlikeable charater, sympathetic.

Ôshima's decision to focus more on the ghost story rather than simply replicate the eroticism that consumed his previous film is commendable. He also does not stick to the usual clichéd ways of making a conventional horror story. There are no dissolves involved with Gisaburo’s spectre and no spooky music at all. There is even a great scary moment when Kazuko takes a trip on her ghostly husband’s rickshaw.

The problem with the story is really the pacing of the beginning of the piece. It is too slow and seems to take an eternity to really build up the murder. But this is still an enjoyable, old-fashioned romantic horror story told by one of the greatest Japanese auteurs.

Reviewed on: 20 Oct 2011
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A soldier embarks on an affair with an older married woman.
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Director: Nagisa Ôshima

Writer: Itoko Namura, Nagisa Ôshima

Starring: Tatsuya Fuji, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Takahiro Tamura, Takuzo Kawatani, Akiyoshi Fujiwara, Masami Hasegawa, Kenzô Kawarasaki, Tatsuya Kimura, Eizo Kitamura, Akiko Koyama, Osugi, Sumie Sasaki, Takaaki Sugiura, Taiji Tonoyama

Year: 1978

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Japan


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If you like this, try:

In The Realm Of The Senses