22 September 2020 | kluseba
Intelligent drama that criticizes social conventions in feudal Japan
Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji is a chanbara film which means a sword fighting movie. Released sixty-five years ago as we speak, it has become one of the most influential films of its genre even though it has been overlooked by audiences from abroad for much too long. This movie has a particular vibe since the sword fighting only occurs during the last ten minutes of the film which makes for a surprisingly brutal finale.
Before this unexpected conclusion, this movie could rather be categorized as a drama that quietly and cleverly criticizes social conventions and restraints. The film follows a group of people who travel from the country side to Edo. We meet a desperate father who sees no other solution to pay his depts than selling his daughter into prostitution. There is a traveling single mother and her daughter who earn a very modest living by dancing and singing at festivals. The film introduces a master who likes to socialize with his servants instead of keeping his distance. All these characters and events are connected to the protagonist of the movie who is a spear carrier with a remarkable sense of duty. He wants to help people in need, encourage those around him and even develops a tender romantic relationship on his journey. Just as the movie seems to conclude with a happy ending, a dramatic turn of events leaves the audience on a most sinister impression.
This intelligent movie convinces in many departments. The characters are profound, interesting and diversified. The numerous side stories are sometimes serious, sometimes humorous but always entertaining. The locations varying from busy town streets over traditional inns to beautiful country roads bring traditional Japan to life in an authentic manner. The camera work is calm and careful and rather observing than flamboyant which fits the tone of the movie.
The film isn't without its flaws. The numerous side stories can't hide the fact that the movie is missing a precise guiding line. The locations end up being somewhat repetitive. The movie's slow pace hasn't aged particularly well. The fact that the movie only contains a few minutes of sword fighting scenes contrasts the rather gruesome and misleading title.
If you are however prepared to watch an intelligent drama criticizing social conventions in feudal Japan instead of an intense sword fighting film, you are certainly going to appreciate this hidden gem with its unusual storytelling.