Greetings Loved Ones! Liu is the Name, And Views Are My Game.
What would you do for someone you loved? Would you fight? Would you die? Would you kill? These are a few of the questions that director Nagisa Oshima attempts to answer in his erotic horror film, Empire Of Passion.
The story of a married woman, Seki, and her much younger lover, Toyoji, murdering her husband, and subsequently getting haunted by his ghost, the movie is at once glorious, and completely awful. The eerie soundtrack, gorgeous cinematography, and exquisite use of light and fog make it a feast for the eyes, and a truly unnerving audio-visual experience. There are no jump scares, there’s absolutely no gore, and yet, I found this film considerably more frightening than half the horror movies that get made today. Seriously. There’s one scene in here where a rickshaw wheel starts spinning for no reason, and I swear, it sent shivers up and down my spine. So, from a purely technical standpoint, this movie is perfect. From an acting and story standpoint, well, not so much.
As I said before, writer/director Nagisa Oshima attempts to explore the psychology of tormented and homicidal love in this film, but does not succeed. The characters tell us that they’re in love. They tell us that they’ll do anything for each other. But we don’t buy it. Their relationship is based solely on sex, and even that is a little bit sketchy. What I mean by that is, we see Seki and Toyoji innocently flirting at the start of the film, but then, 20 minutes later, we see Toyoji more or less rape her in front of her infant son. Seriously! We clearly hear her say the words “no,” “don’t,” and “stop” multiple times, so it’s obviously not a consensual encounter. We also see shots of the baby crying, and reaching out for his mother while this is happening, which is just plain messed up. And yet, rather than be traumatized by this attack, or want to kill Toyoji, Seki says that she loves him afterwards, and that she’s willing to murder for him. The hell, man? Oh, and speaking of the murder, the reason that they end up doing that is beyond bizarre. In one scene, and I swear I’m not making this up, Toyoji is going down on Seki, and says “I’m going to shave you.” He does so, and then, after their done, he says, “Yeah, you’re husband is going to notice the difference, so we need to kill him.” Are you kidding me? Why the hell would you do that, then? Or was your whole plan to do something that would force Seki to agree to kill her husband? Either way, they end up strangling the husband, and dumping him into a well, and the rest of the film devolves into a series of repeating scenes. What I mean by that is, the same four scenes, Seki getting scared by the ghost of her husband, Seki crying to Toyoji, only to have him be an asshole to her, Seki and Toyoji sleeping together, and subsequently saying that one should leave before it’s too late, and Seiki and Toyoji’s neighbors gossiping about them, happen over and over again. And, trust me, they get really old, really fast. I can understand having these scenes happen once, to get the point across, but don’t do it over and over again. That’s just repetitive and annoying.
So, in the end, I don’t know what kind of grade to give this movie. It’s a well-shot, truly unnerving atmospheric horror film with some great scares. But, at the same time, the characters are either dumb or unlikable, the plot gets extremely repetitive after a while, and the acting is bad. Seriously. The woman who plays Seki seems to believe that if you cry and scream at the top of your lungs, that somehow makes a great character. I don’t know if I can recommend this to you all, but If you like Japanese movies, erotic horror films, or the works of Nagisa Oshima, maybe you’ll enjoy this.