For the last nearly two months, I have what can only be describing as binging on classic Japanese cinema of the 1950s (give or take a couple of years). And this is one of my favourites so far. It presented a rather raw and bleak view of a marriage where the wife hates her husband (with bloody good reason), and he resents her for it. Takamine is particularly brilliant, giving us a fully rounded, flawed human being; a fundamentally kind woman betrayed or abandoned by the men in her life; a mother whose love for her children is bounded by her feelings towards their father, particularly her eldest, the result of the rape. Nakadai, as her husband, is never a likable character, but is also not a hateful figure. Instead, he is presented as a spoiled brat, feeling entitled to do whatever he wants by his social position. However, as the film goes on, he becomes more and more a figure of old Japan, puzzled not only by the changes in his world, but also unable to connect with his wife (something he actually wants).
The film doesn't run away from these topics, presenting the story in an un-melodramatic fashion, each line of dialogue full of recriminations. The intention is, of course, that you have to face the story straight on. Although I didn't entirely buy the ending (possibly due to differences Japanese/European culture as opposed to a fault with it) this is one of my favourites so far. Exquisitely shot in Black and White cinemascope and with flamengo soundtrack (sang in Japanese), the film is also a pleasure to watch and hear. While it's not available in an English-friendly edition, there are French and German DVD editions, and the former (which I own) also contains a small introduction (in French) which I found useful on context of Japanese history.