ONIBABA (1964) Reviews and overview

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Onibaba will be released by The Criterion Collection on Blu-ray and DVD on October 5, 2021. Special features:

Audio commentary by writer-director Kaneto Shindo and actors Kei Sato and Jitsuko Yoshimura (Blu-ray only)
2003 interview with writer-director Kaneto Shindo
On-location footage shot by actor Kei Sato
Production sketches and promotional art galleries (DVD only)
A booklet with an essay by film critic Elena Lazic (Blu-ray only), Kaneto Shindo’s 2001 director’s statement, and a version of the Buddhist fable that inspired the film
New cover artwork by Edward Kinsella

Onibaba is a 1964 Japanese horror film based on a Buddhist parable. Directed by Kaneto Shindo, the film is set in rural Japan in the fourteenth century and features Nobuko Otowa and Jitsuko Yoshimura as a woman and her daughter-in-law who kill passing samurai and steal their possessions.


In a time of civil war, a woman (Nobuko Otowa) and her daughter-in-law (Jitsuko Yoshimura) live in a small hut in a susuki grass swamp. They live by killing samurai, disposing of their bodies in a deep pit and selling their armor and weapons. A neighbor named Hachi (Kei Sato), who went to war with the woman’s son, returns. He reports that the son was killed.

Hachi starts to help the two women to kill. Hachi lusts after the daughter-in-law, who quickly is seduced and starts to sneak out of her hut every night to have sex with him. The mother-in-law learns of the relationship. She first tries to sleep with Hachi and then pleads with him to not take the daughter-in-law away since she cannot kill without her help…



“Visually the film is stunning; in fact, it is the most appealing thing about the picture, as the bare bones of the story are rather slender, loosely based on a simple Buddhist instructional tale. But it’s all in the presentation, and the film’s lustrous black and white photography from director of photography Kiyomi Kuroda is beautiful, as is the marshland location which is as much a psychological landscape as anything…” Cigarette Burns

Onibaba is a masterpiece of film-making. The cinematography and visual style is an absolute treat, with almost every still from this film looking like a composed whole. With the entire film taking place in a field of tall grass, huts or within a deep hole, lighting is the key to what sets the mood …When the Demon Woman herself appears, her mask and bright robes catch the moonlight and stand-out as one of the most visually arresting and memorable images..” Killerflix

“There is a raging, discordant energy running in the veins of this film. The music by Hayashi Hiraku, almost an experimental jazz, that matches the writhing and thrusting of sex, the heat of the days and sweat of the nights. The low key lighting throws everything in stark light and shadow, and the seeming gentle breeze across the grass disguises what lies beneath, the beating heart of a dark and living haunting.” Screen Anarchy


Original title:

鬼婆 “Demon Hag”


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