In detailed fashion, the film investigates the troubled psyche of a dull, uneducated lower-class housewife in a backward northeastern, province. The woman is so stupid that she is scarcely aware of the drabness of her life with a petty, bickering husband and his whining mother, or of her own thwarted sensuality.
One night, left alone in the house, she is awakened by a wild-eyed lunatic, brandishing a knife and demanding money. The sight of her ripe young body, trembling with terror, soon changes his mind. He forgets the robbery and rapes her.
The next morning, gathering her ravished self together, the woman mumbles to herself that she really ought to commit suicide. Then she sneezes.
Finding self-destruction unexpectedly difficult, she wonders if she should tell her husband what has happened. Somehow, she has a feeling he wouldn't understand. She scarcely understands herself.
To her confused surprise, life goes on. Then the rapist returns. She resists a little less.
Before long, she is wandering through the streets in search of him. This time, she tells herself, she really must persuade him to leave her alone.
The director, Shohei Imamura, has something deeper than shock effects in mind. His theme is natural instinct versus social convention, and his approach is original. Despite the handicaps of Japanese slowness and a fantastic ending that resolves the situation so neatly that it tends to blunt the message, he has designed an arresting and provocative film.
FOR much of its inordinate length, this Japanese drama is a strange and fascinating film.
Its lurid title, "Unholy Desire," suggests violence and sensationalism. On that score, for once, the plot fully lives up to expectations. It is an authentic shocker.
Much of its interest comes from Masumi Harukawa's remarkable performance as the wife. Instead of the usual sensuous movie actress discovering amour, she is a fat, foolish, ploddingly passive creature—the last woman one would expect to awaken to violent passion. The conflict between her wildly perverse instincts and her complacent demeanor is a creative and comic conception.
Shigeru Tsuyoguchi is disconcerting as the rapist, and Akira Nishimura's weak and faithless husband, finally defeated by the unsuspected vitality of his cowlike wife, is a well-shaded characterization. The director, who attracted some attention here with his odd "The Insect Woman," sometimes errs on the side of artiness, but he reveals a distinctive talent.
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