A plot summary of Sansho the Baliff would read like a fairy tale: the children of an nobleman exiled for his egalitarianism are kidnapped from their mother and sold into slavery, only to---
But Sansho is not a fairy tale. Whatever miraculous turns it may take are accompanied by loss, and the viewer, like the characters, comes to accept these are more turns on the wheel of fate. "Isn't life torture?" is the refrain of a (faux) folk song in the movie, and the world portrayed in Sansho the Baliff has much more to be endured than enjoyed; but those who not only endure but hold fast to humane principles may find some kind of redemption in their lives. It is a beautifully photographed, deeply moving film.