Double Suicide

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  • NR
  • 1969
  • 1 hr 45 min
  • 7.6  (2,571)

Double Suicide is a mesmerizing Japanese movie released in 1969 directed by Masahiro Shinoda, starring Kichiemon Nakamura, Shima Iwashita, and Shizue Kawarazaki. The movie is based on a story of love, sacrifice, and death engulfed in the traditional 18th-century Japanese puppet theater, called bunraku. It is a poignant tale of two lovers, separated by society's rigid norms, that captured the hearts of audiences worldwide.

The story unfolds on a sunny day in Edo, Japan, where the merchant's clerk, Jihei, played by Kichiemon Nakamura, falls hopelessly in love with the beautiful courtesan Koharu, played by Shima Iwashita. Despite the gap in their social status, Jihei impulsively proposes to Koharu, who, hesitant at first, accepts his love in the end. However, unable to leave her life and work as a courtesan, Koharu persuades Jihei to elope with her.

As society in Japan at the time was strictly class-based, Jihei's family and the mistress he shared with Koharu, both disapproved of their forbidden love. Realizing their predicament, the two lovers decide to commit suicide to escape from their societal constraints, and the film takes off on a tale of forbidden love and the harsh reality of the society they lived in.

The director's brilliance deserves appreciation for his cinematic portrayal of the bunraku, a dying art form in Japan during the time. The movie's sets and costumes offer a visually captivating experience for the audience, with the bunraku's movements and voices providing an organic audio experience. The symbiotic blend of sophisticated storytelling with the iconic Japanese art form drew the audience into a trance of emotions that kept them engrossed till the movie's end.

Double Suicide leads the viewer on a poignant journey, as the characters try to come to terms with their situation. Jihei is consumed by his love for Koharu, unable to control his feelings for her; Koharu, on the other hand, feels her destiny pulling her back to her life as a courtesan.

Kichiemon Nakamura's performance, as Jihei, is a masterclass of natural acting with his skillful portrayals of Jihei's almost obsessive love for Koharu, mixed with his guilt, anxiety as he confronts his wife Otora, his brother, and his mistress. Shima Iwashita, as Koharu, is no less than Nakamura, with her naturalistic portrayal of a woman, torn between her lover and profession. Her gradual transformation from a courtesan to a lover is seen in every nuance of her performance.

Shizue Kawarazaki, as Jihei's wife, is remarkable in her role with her understated performance bringing out the anguish and heartbreak she goes through upon learning of Jihei's betrayal. With elegant precision, Kawarazaki portrays the societal expectations and norms of the times with contempt and pain.

The film's themes and underlying message are what make it so memorable. Doubtlessly, Double Suicide is a tragic love story, but it goes deeper than that. It deals with the question of love, death, and sacrifice in a society that believes in conforming to age-old traditions and conventions. It highlights the limitations imposed by societal rules, which can sometimes lead to crushing one's dreams and desires.

In essence, the movie mirrors modern-day society's expectations, where, even today, love comes with its own set of shackles. The need for societal approval and the stigmatization of love between individuals of different social backgrounds continue to plague us today. The movie speaks to an elemental human need for freedom, breaking free from the constraints that society sets forth on us, and questioning the progress we have made over the years.

In conclusion, Double Suicide remains one of the most poignant films ever made, a perfect and seamless blend of storytelling and traditional puppetry arts. It portrays the psychological, emotional, and societal complexities of the time with simple yet skillful realism. The movie offers a masterful commentary on societal constraints and human nature, leaving the viewers in awe of the art of filmmaking while grappling with the limitations of our existence. It is a timeless masterpiece that continues to hold relevance even today.

Double Suicide
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 45 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.6  (2,571)