Jigokumon (Gate of Hell) Reviews
Even as action packed as its first act is, "Gate of Hell" also finds the time to unload a lot of 12th century Japanese politics and history on the unsuspecting audience. That is all a little unnecessary, considering that at the heart of this historical drama is the intimate and timeless tragedy of three people and they are the only ones that matter. But the movie soon recovers itself very, very well on the way to its shattering climax. In general, this is also a movie about warriors who have trouble adjusting to peacetime, especially considering this was made not that long after the end of World War II.
During a traitorous rebellion, the royal family needs to be evacuated, so to fool the invaders, a woman named Kesa, volunteers to be the Ladyship's double, while being escorted by some samurai, including one named Moritoh.
The rebellion ends up being crushed, and Moritoh is considered to be a hero and he is offered anything he wants as a reward. He wants to marry Kesa, but this particular request cannot be honored, as she is already married to a man named Wataru. This infuriates Moritoh, and he refuses to take no for an answer and seeks endlessly to win her love while also deviously plotting to get Wataru out of the picture.
The story is familiar, and on the surface, is simple.. But, it's the way that the film presents it, and the way that is written and performed, that makes the story a great deal more than what it would seem at first thought. There are many themes to be processed: obsession, desire, greed, and other dark themes, but it is also surprising in themes like devotion, true love, sacrifice, and other themes. It covers a wide spectrum of human thoughts and emotions, both dark and malicious, but also how goodness and devotion to the one you love can stand in the face of terrifying evil that threatens to destroy everyone. The story is quite compelling, and also tragic and emotional.
The acting is superb, especially from Machiko Kyo as Lady Kesa and Kazuo Hasegawa as Moritoh. Machiko Kyo is a sympathetic and wonderful character, while Kazuo Hasegawa does an amazing job of playing the menacing Moritoh as his mental state slowly deteriorates when the object of his desire rejects him over and over again until there is nothing but the obsession as his goal in sight. These two are what made the film what it was in terms of storytelling, as they successfully balance between good and evil elements of human nature.
Gate Of Hell is a superb drama that definitely deserved the numerous awards that it won when it first released. This makes it ever more questionable as to why it took so damn long for it to get released on a home video format (So much so, that they had to restore all the colors and footage because the footage was so faded and old from not being used for so long). Whatever may be the reason for this, we finally get to see the masterpiece in all its glory. It's not just a beautiful color film, but it's also an exceptional drama and among the greatest Japanese films ever made. If you love a good drama, Gate Of Hell is something worth seeing.
Every frame of every shot is simply a formidable Japanese print. It is pure beauty.
Its opening battle scenes partially shrouded behind billowing veils and banners, and the majestic flight of the troops from the burning imperial palace providing some of the most remarkable images.
Developed in slow pace, this movie is 53 years old, and it still sparkles Those were the days when doing the right thing was the expected norm. All those who transgress their loyalties, and are beaten or unmasked, are sent to hell through its gat
The first colored Japanese movies that was ever shown in the U.S. This film got Best Costume Design in a color film at the Oscars and an honorary Best Foreign Language Film (they didn't yet have that category). Although it's a very beautiful, colorful film, it's far from my favorite Samurai film.
This story happens during the 1160 Meiji Rebellion. As rebels storm a Daimyo's residence, an effort is planned to cause a diversion. One of the Ladies in Waiting, Kesa (Machiko Kyo) volunteered to act as the Lord's wife so that the Lord and Ladies could make their escape. Her cart is guarded by samurai Morito Enda (Kazuo Hasegawa) who fights gallantly to protect her.
Morito is so disappointed that his brother is part of the rebels, he makes every effort to help Lord Kiyomori Itsukushima (Koreya Senda) back to power. As a reward, the Lord promises to grant Morito a wish. Morito wishes to wed the Lady Kesa. When Lord Itsukushima finds out the Kesa is married to another samurai, Wataru Watanabe (Isao Yamagata), he backs away from his promise, but Morito will not relent, and begins stalking poor Kesa.
Japanese cinematography has its own early pearls, and this is the huge one of the 1953. A story which develops so smoothly that there is no other way but to follow it to the end - and enjoy in that process. I'll have to say few words about some of the scenes and the acting but I am not an expert in the social behaviour and interaction in the samurai society, and I'll just accept that such a behaviour was normal at the time. A story of love and tragic ending, as well as one of the loyalty, lust and reasoning - so complex that I'll probably suggest a second viewing to understand fully all the layers of it.