What does Irezumi say about men, women, and Samurai?
Irezumi suggests that, in the ‘new age’ of Japanese cinema men and women are more equal than the typical Japanese culture of the ‘golden age’ of Japanese cinema, in films like ugetsu, where the women are chiefly used as dramatic devices, suffering so that the men can learn their lessons, ‘new age’ films like ‘Irezumi’, has a main protagonist that has the power to change the narrative, with male characters, like her husband, being used as a narrative device; in order to show her change, as he has not changed and thus contrasts on who she was at the beginning of the film, and portrays the change the spider has on her character.
Irezumi also expresses relative equality between men and women by exploring the complexities of their characters, and what gives them power in different circumstances. Irezumi explores this, using the dynamic between Otsuya and the samurai, as when she goes to meet the samurai for the second time, the samurai takes up most of the screen, showing his confidence in his power over her, even though in previous scenes they were in conflict with each other. Despite this shot of the samurai’s power, there is a shot, later in the scene, over the shoulder of the samurai, looking down at Otsuya, initiating the start of the promiscuous activities, and also the shift in power between the two characters, as even though the samurai takes up most of the shot, looking down on Otsuya; giving him the physical power, the woman has a calm expression on her face, telling the audience that not being intimidated but his physical presence, initiates the shift of power, as the next shot, with them together, the spider dominates the screen, finishing the shift of power from the samurai, to the woman and the spider. The fact the the power can shift between a man and a woman within scenes, proves that equality is more common place, and acceptable in the ‘new age’ of Japanese cinema.
Irizumi also explores the new ways of thinking, in terms of the equality of gender, by creating a complex protagonist, in Otsuya, who is not typecast because of her gender, as she is manipulative, and evil, but is so because of evil done to her. Otsuya is seen to justify her actions throughout the film, with lines of dialogue, telling her husband to “blame the spider on my back” for her vengeful ways, creating a sense that she doesn’t want to take responsibility for her own evil, making the audience think that the spider has no supernatural qualities, and is just a metaphorical representative of the wrong done to her, that she is using to justify her actions. However the audience become conflicted, by being offered an opposing view; as the spider is also suggested to have a supernatural hold over Otsuya. Throughout the film, there are long extended shots of the spider tattoo, every time she murders someone, and every time she manipulates her husband into doing so, the audience become conflicted over the true nature of Otsuya, as the two suggested perceptions of Otsuya presented by the film (that being the powerless victim; being controlled by the supernatural spider, and the complex, evil woman, manipulating, men, women and children, and hell bent on revenge), are a representative of the conflicting perceptions of women in Japan, in the transition of the ‘golden age’, and the ‘new wave’ of cinema; with the ‘simple minded victim’ being the golden age’s perception of women, and the ‘complex, independent and intelligent woman, doing what she wants’, being a representative of the ‘new wave’ of thinking.
As well as the film giving a conflicting presentation of Otsuya, the characters in the film, also seem to have conflicting views concerning her, with her husband, and the samurai viewing her, in the ‘new wave’ view; that being that she is complex, and can change, and the rest of the characters viewing have ‘golden age’ style perception of her, just being there to serve the men.