Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Intentions of Murder

Sadako, the plump young and portly lower class suburban wife has certain certainties in her life that she expects but beyond these, there isn't much. Hell breaks loose when a stranger breaks into her house while she is alone. Initially, it seems that he is looking for money which he steals but Sadako resists him when she wakes. He tries to flee and threatens her with death, he has a knife. He then savagely attacks Sadako and ties her on the floor. However, seeing her naked thighs unleashes him and he rapes her. Later, Sadako decides to kill herself and while thinking these thoughts feels hungry and nibbles on left overs. An attempt to throw herself on the rail track behind her house is half hearted.

In Sadako, the quintessential unprivileged woman decides to stay quiet. Sadako is the common law wife of a quiet librarian, who has a mistress too. He is seen sporting Eros and Civilization in his library. Later at home, he treats Sadako as a kept woman. The train track is just behind the house, it is an important motif in this movie. Sadako's son is not registered as her son, need we know any further?

In Intentions of Murder, Imamura shows both how the kept woman or a woman can be continuously subdued and subjugated. That she is raped and develops some feelings for her tormentor is quite beside the point. The state of mind which induces a person to develop sympathies for one's subjugator is indeed a complex and interesting psychological state. However, in Sadako's case, her feelings are not born of some vague romantic longing, for how often does a woman fall in love with someone who rapes her? Her escape with her rapist to Tokyo must be seen as her fight against the many betrayals that she has suffered at every step of her life, witnessed by the numerous flashbacks and reveries we see her falling into. We can make a case of Sadako as a victim of not only her circumstances but as a psychological sufferer, and her escape and trysts with the pathetic man who has raped her is her flight not to Tokyo but to those inner regions of the mind that we know nothing about, especially hers. That she leaves her hopeless life but also her son behind is a proof of how sordid her life is, better escape with this aggressor, this obvious evil man than live with her husband whose systematic violence towards her is a given part of her life. At one point in the movie, even her son calls Sadako a fatso!

Towards the end of this movie, which ends on a positive note, Sadako has gained freedom from her rapist, her husband's mistress is dead whilst spying on her ( her mission to prove to him that Sadako is unfaithful, to him who has a mistress) she has filed a case to gain legal status as a mother, and her husband, convinced that Sadako did go to Tokyo with a man, agrees in a meek manner for the status quo to remain. But the status quo has changed. Sadako has from her trauma gained a strength, and is convinced of her inner charms even if outwardly she looks unattractive. But that is neither here nor there.

Intentions of Murder is easily one of the best movies I have ever seen. Imamura is relentlessly nihilistic in corroding every perceptible value that lower bourgeoisie life uses to cover its slime and grime. It is a movie that attacks rather than shows; it is not a brave movie but a movie that subjugates the viewer in its pincer hold. The train journeys to and from Tokyo are magnificient in depicting the ennui and desperation of Sadako's life. Nothing fills you with more dread than not knowing what Sadako might do, what her rapist might not. If Sadako enjoys her rape and later shows how lusty she could be, it reflects the grime of her life, the not so genteel veil that she wears during the day. Her husband usually forces himself on her and that must not be ever considered as a paean to male victory and aggression. The flashbacks are an imporatnt part of this movie's clear and not so clear symbolism.Imamura fills more menace into this movie than you will feel in a hundred others. I am a slave to this movie, now and perhaps forever.

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