Watch Pitfall

  • NR
  • 1962
  • 1 hr 37 min
  • 7.5  (4,288)

Pitfall (1962), also known as Otoshiana or "The Pitfall," is a haunting Japanese film that melds elements of social commentary with the surreal and otherworldly. Directed by renowned filmmaker Hiroshi Teshigahara and operating within the avant-garde sphere of Japanese New Wave cinema, the film challenges conventions with its unique narrative approach, visual storytelling, and exploration of the human condition. Its story is set against the backdrop of post-war Japan, exploring the existential crises of its characters amid economic hardship and moral ambiguity.

The film stars Hisashi Igawa as the protagonist, a man embroiled in a mysterious and disorienting series of events that appear to hover between life and death, reality and illusion. He is an everyman, a coal miner grappling with the survival of his family and the pressures of his sociopolitical environment. His struggle is not just against the stark landscape of the mining town that he inhabits but also against the broader forces that he can neither understand nor control.

Sumie Sasaki plays a significant role as the woman who becomes entangled in the protagonist's journey. Her character adds depth and complexity to the narrative, showing the intertwined fates of individuals as they navigate through a world of oppression, deceit, and instability. Though details about her character's intentions and true nature are deliberately left ambiguous, Sasaki’s performance contributes to the surreal atmosphere that suffuses the film.

Sen Yano, in his role, adds another layer to the story, representing yet another facet of the bleak environment that the characters inhabit. Each of these figures plays a part in the overarching theme of the movie, which questions the place of the individual within wider societal structures and the hidden mechanisms of exploitation and power.

Director Hiroshi Teshigahara, in collaboration with the screenwriter Kobo Abe and composer Toru Takemitsu, crafts a dreamlike and jarring cinematic experience. The narrative is non-linear and frequently enigmatic, with Teshigahara employing a variety of innovative cinematic techniques to puzzle and provoke the audience. The cinematography captures both the grime and sweat of the industrial setting and the stark, otherworldly landscapes that seem to represent the inner turmoil of the characters.

One of the notable aspects of Pitfall is its exploration of the theme of identity and existential dread. Teshigahara expertly delves into these issues by portraying characters in search of a sense of self and purpose within a dehumanizing society. The environment is one where laborers are consumed by their work, and larger forces manipulate their existences seemingly for no reason other than the whims of unseen powers. This serves as a metaphor for the alienation felt by many in the post-war era, with the characters acting as archetypes of a society in the thrall of reconstruction and the pursuit of progress, irrespective of the human cost.

The sound design by Toru Takemitsu is another point of excellence within the film, blending natural sounds with dissonant musical notes to further permeate the film with a sense of the uncanny. It reinforces the ghostly and disturbing tenor of the story, strengthening the impact of the visuals and amplifying the film’s off-kilter mood.

Pitfall represents an abstract tale of ghostly dimensions, where the dark commentary on corporate exploitation pairs with supernatural elements to leave interpretations open-ended and hauntingly resonant. The film can be seen as both a social allegory and a psychological maze, as Teshigahara guides the viewer through a labyrinthine plot that never quite resolves into straightforward answers.

While Pitfall may be challenging to viewers accustomed to conventional narratives, its audacious approach to storytelling and its philosophical inquiries render it a significant work in the canon of Japanese cinema. A film that is as perplexing as it is poignant, it serves as a vivid exploration of the human spirit under siege and a trenchant critique of the systems that pervade and shape our lives. For those willing to engage with its complexities and immerse themselves in its stark vision, Pitfall offers an experience that is as intellectually stimulating as it is artistically innovative.

Pitfall doesn't appear to be available from any streaming services.
Add this movie to your Watchlist to get notified when it's available.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 37 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.5  (4,288)