The Ballad of Narayama (1984) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Ballad of Narayama (1984)

The Ballad of Narayama




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

In this second, award-winning interpretation of a novel by Shichiro Fukazawa, director Shohei Imamura has inserted some scenes of violence and ritual sex that are shocking and were absent in the first, 1958 film. The story is set in the 19th century in a remote and severely impoverished mountain village in northern Japan. In this fictional society, once the elderly have reached the age of 70 they are brought up Mount Nara, where ancient gods reside, and left to die hopefully blessed by the deities -- this sacrifice will free up food for someone else in the village. Orin (Sumiko Sakamoto) is a 69-year-old grandmother living with one of her sons and three grandchildren and she prepares for her departure for an entire year. Among other activities (not always morally acceptable), she gets a new wife for her oldest son, and then shows the wife where the best place is for catching fish and how to take care of the family. At the top of the mountain, hundreds of skeletons and hungry black crows wait for the next arrivals as the resigned grandmother and one grieving son make the final ascent together, the woman strapped to her son's back. Director Imamura has trenchantly probed the nature of inhumanity and survival in a small, everyman's village. Narayama Bushi Ko won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1983.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Art House & International, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Shichiro Fukazawa, Shohei Imamura
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jun 10, 2008
Toei Company


Ken Ogata
as Tatsuhei
Takejo Aki
as Tamayan
Seiji Kurasaki
as Kesakichi
Kaoru Shimamori
as Tomekichi
Nijiko Kiyokawa
as Old widow Okane
Mitsuko Baisho
as Young Widow Oei
Norihei Miki
as Old salt dealer
Sachie Shimura
as Amaya's Wife
Masami Okamoto
as Amaya's Son
Keishi Takamine
as Arayashiki
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for The Ballad of Narayama

All Critics (15) | Top Critics (4)

Imamura's rough sexual humor is still in evidence, but now it has taken on a dark tone: to make love is to flirt with death.

Full Review… | February 8, 2010
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Full Review… | July 22, 2008
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

in this hermetic world... Imamura captures a truly universal, all-encompassing experience, showing the transmission of virtues and vices from one generation to the next in the service of life's tenacious continuity.

Full Review… | October 31, 2011
Little White Lies

A good movie that could have been truly great

Full Review… | August 5, 2009
Film and Felt

Audience Reviews for The Ballad of Narayama

Shohei Imamura present a great tale, the struggle of a mother to accomplish all the necessity of your family, before her death. With the perfect direction, and screenplay, The Ballad of Narayma, show too the sexual perform of her sons and the violent way of life that the community live together. Narayma, bring too a strange dark humor, shocking scenes and the difficulty of a son to comply an cold tradition. Certainly, deserve win the Palme d'or in 1983. Fresh.

Lucas Martins
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer

This movie was a treat!!
It has everything: humor, drama, great characters and a beautiful story.

It's situated in a peasant village, where everybody has to struggle to keep the mouths of their families fed. The people are submitted to strict rules to make sure that everything doesn't spin out of control. One of the rules is that when a person turns 70, they have to be carried off to the mountain of Narayama by the eldest son where they are left to die.

The story revolves around Orin, the 69 year old mother and her family, a colorful collection of characters that find their way into your heart effortlessly.

Saskia D.

Super Reviewer


the film recreates a remote mountain village in 19th century japan where famine is always lurking. it's a harsh world where infants are commonly discarded and at age 70, elders are carried to the mountaintop to die. the film follows one family in their various relationships and day to day struggles for survival. it's a raw and beautiful evocation of life bound by tradition at the most basic level

Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

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