Minimalistic and bare, yet at the same time ridden with symbolism. Strongly sexual without being sexy or vulgar.
Onibaba's really gorgeously composed. When the music isn't cheesy, it's minimal and atmospheric, and incredibly well-designed. Some of the pieces really stick with you. Likewise, the visual mood of the film is spot on. There's nary a single frame of the movie where you don't see through nets of grass, which makes the whole thing seem kind of claustrophobic.
Though many of the parts for a truly timeless film were there, not much is going on in Onibaba. The characters aren't particularly deep, and though the story is interesting on surface level, it moves lethargically. Onibaba is successful in its minimalism, but the writing doesn't really resonate.
That's one of the interesting things about black and white films. A lot of people are so averse to them, and even I would normally watch a film in color, but it really brings out the beauty of the image to see it in grayscale. Thus, films that really aren't all that engaging on a rhetorical or compositional level are lent classic status just because of how they look, and how that look makes you feel.
Ultimately, deserving of its arthouse status. It doesn't all hold up, but it's an undeniably interesting film. Give it a look.
In the case of Kaneto Shindo's Onibaba the film deals with basic human emotions: greed and sexual desire, and how these two can drive people to do anything they can to sattisfy their prime instincts, especially in a war-fare enviroment as the one in the film.
It's a shame than most film snobs dismiss directors like Shindo and just stay with the same 3, Kurosawa, Ozu and Mizoguchi. With Onibaba Shindo shows a masterfull control of the camera and story. Worth a check to any serious fan of japanese cinema and cinema in general.
Has a surprising amount of topless female nudity for a film of its time.
A must see.
Give it a rental at the very least.