27 January 2005 | kiddar
A shocking, depressing, and even humorous depiction of a villages efforts to survive.
"Ballad of Narayama" is ultimately a film about survival.
Set during the Meiji Period, the inhabitants of a tiny Japanese farming village are forced to embrace extreme tactics to ensure that they stay alive.
Male babies are instantly killed with hardly any remorse, while females are usually sold. Stealing food is punishable by death, which we see in a very disturbing scene where an entire family are buried alive due their father's crime.
And, ultimately, the elderly are sent to die at the base of a mountain called Narayama when they reach the age of 70.
Despite the depressing tone, there is a lot of humor in this film, as well. The songs that the villagers sing about each other are pretty funny, and it's difficult not to laugh at Old Orin trying to knock her own teeth out with a rock.
Speaking of Old Orin, the actress who player her (Sumiko Sakamoto) gives a wonderful performance in this film. She had her teeth surgically removed for this role, and gives a realistic depiction of a 70-year-old woman even though she was in her 40s when the film was made.
"Ballad of Narayama" is indeed a depressing film in many aspects, but it's also filled with humor and offers a better understanding of what life must be like in these types of situations.