Sunday, December 19, 2010


Ugetsu or Tales Of The Pale And Silvery Moon After The Rain is generally regarded as a ghost story and as a chronicle of war and the subsequent sufferings faced especially by women, but in the lines below, I will aim to describe it primarily as a love story. In three separate scenes, I will try to describe the intense and incomparable love between the main characters. This is not a plot description by any means.

The Lake Biwa Scene

It is no exaggeration to say that this scene has no rival in cinema. What we see first is a boat floating dreamily on a lake, towards us, and a lake shrouded in mist, the mist shrouded in wan and silvery moon light. A woman stands at the rear end, oaring this boat, and singing a song that arises seemingly from the depths of this lake. We see the boat glide on this most dreamy of lakes, as we recognise the men and woman huddled on it, as if tranced, held in the sway of the mist and moon light, tied to this boat by this most unearthly song, reminding them, if they can hear it, of the transience of all things. The boat and the lake may not exist at all, it seems we are in a trance, the remote viewer. Now, we see the boat from the rear end as it floats dreamily and as another boat emerges, as if out of the depths of this lake, out of this swooning mist, this moon light covered sensual mist.

Later, at dawn, when Miyagi looks at her husband in the departing boat, from the edges of this now real lake, Oh, Miyagi, you wanted to go with him, the desperation on her face, the camera cutting back and forth from the boat to Miyagi and back, that is the first intense depiction of love in this movie. The moon is in love with the lake, the mist with the lake, the boat with the water, and mortal men and women must do what they must do.

Lady Wasaka Dances

Lady Wasaka and Genjuro are in love. Genjuro holds a cup of Sake in his hands as Wasaka rises and, her face painted white, she drifts in front of him, she slides and writhes, she sings a song for her lover. This is no ordinary love for in her hands, haven't his pots attained perfection? "Your pots are saddened by my touch", she says, yes, this is no ordinary love, as Lady Wasaka dances and sings a song, the sound of which comes from another world. It sounds other worldly because this emotion is not of this world, she has suffered to attain Genjuro, now he is her's, as she dances a mournful dance, as she sings, "The finest silk, Of choicest hue, May change and fade away, As would my life, Beloved one, If thou shoulds't prove untrue." Love must necessarily seek suffering, sacrifice leads ultimately to the final gates of love opening like Wasaka's arms, as she holds her beloved.

Wasaka's eyes and her white face, her silken finery and her burning passion are not able to hide her fear that Genjuro, her only lover will one day leave her and that she will be all alone, with these pots and cups. Genjuro too loves her with the world weary love of men who are doomed to love immortal love, men whose eyes have seen eyes, whose faces have seen faces but this too is new for Genjuro, this awakening of the senses, this tragic numbing of the soul, this hypnotic movement of the limbs, Sake and mirth, Wasaka and love. This love is however immortal but Genjuro does not know that.

Genjuro returns

Miyagi waits in their tired hut for Genjuro. Love will pardon all, even greed. Have this stew, you are cold and tired, Miyagi says. Gone is her agitation and in its place is languid melancholy, had not their previous meeting raced against an hour glass, but this is new and you have returned home now, Miyagi knows. She looks at her lover with the known certainty of certainties, she alone knows that she must go, leave soon, perhaps forever, lover look at me, I will be gone soon, but she does not say that aloud. She has waited so long for him and he has travelled so long for her. Later, asleep, he dreams a dreamless sleep, safe sleep in the safety of being near the person who matters, and she has left him but so it seems. I will always be with you, Miyagi says and we hear. Genjuro hears that too. Near his pots and pans and outside his hut, he has erected a shrine for her.


Roxana said...

oh Kubla, this is so beautiful, as if you had written this for my heart, you made me cry. i cannot talk about the impossible beauty of this film, but you... i don't know how you managed to...

Roxana said...

"It is no exaggeration to say that this scene has no rival in cinema"


Kubla Khan said...

But you have said it too Roxana, in two words, the "impossible beauty" of this movie! Ugetsu shows how the ineffable can be described.