In the Realm of the Senses

Critics Consensus

Sexual taboos are broken and boundaries crossed In the Realm of the Senses, a fearlessly provocative psychosexual tale.



Total Count: 35


Audience Score

User Ratings: 5,930
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Movie Info

Based upon a true incident in 1930s Japan, Nagisa Oshima's controversial film effectively skirts the borderline between pornography and art -- making Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris of four years earlier look like children's programming in comparison. The story concerns servant and former prostitute Sada Abe (Eiko Matsuda) who becomes sexually obsessed with her employer Kizicho (Tatsuya Fuji), a businessman, after seeing him making love to his wife. After making love to Sada, Kizicho becomes obsessed with her as well. As their love-making becomes more and more intense, they find themselves unable to separate themselves from each other, until every waking hour is spent in more and more dangerous sexual acts with Sada becoming more and more of the aggressor. Finally, for the ultimate in eroticism, Kizicho agrees to be strangled during sexual ecstasy for the ultimate in orgasmic fulfillment. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for In the Realm of the Senses

All Critics (35) | Top Critics (7)

  • Declaring yourself bored by a movie full of explicit sex may sometimes mark you out as a dreary pseudo-sophisticate, but in this case it's fair enough.

    Sep 1, 2009 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • Unsanitised, worryingly convincing in its sadomasochistic detail, this is seriously provocative cinema, a telling reminder of what it really means to be dangerous.

    Aug 29, 2009 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • As the soundtrack moans in sympathy while the deep crimson colours dazzle in delirium, the entire movie comes desperately close to approximating the pell-mell emotional turmoil of sex itself. Not porn, sex.

    Aug 29, 2009 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

    Kevin Maher

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • One of the most extraordinary moments in screen history. Oshima's film widens and deepens the sensual realm.

    Aug 29, 2009 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • It was made 33 years ago but Nagisa Oshima's doomed lust classic doesn't look in the least bit dusty. Quite the opposite.

    Aug 29, 2009 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • The cinematography, mise-en-scène, and music respond to the solid and unitary idea of the film. [Full Review in Spanish]

    Aug 8, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for In the Realm of the Senses

  • Nov 30, 2016
    The amount of sex in this becomes numbing long before the end. I actually started wishing they'd go for a walk or something, just to take a breather.
    Marcus W Super Reviewer
  • Dec 22, 2013
    Famed for the controversy it caused upon its original release, Nagisa Oshima's 'In the Realm of the Senses' was, for a long time, only spoken about in hushed voices, confined to a world of perpetual slicing and dicing by the censors and never truly available in its graphic entirety. It's been thirty-four years and the film has at long last received an unedited pass by the BBFC, allowing audiences to finally be subjected to something like which they have never seen before, and for many, may never want to see again. The film is based on the true story of Sada Abe (played here by Eiko Matsuda), a Japanese woman who acquired fame for killing her lover, Kichizo Ishida (Tatsuya Fuji) via erotic asphyxiation before cutting off his penis and testicles to carry around in her handbag. Undoubtedly the most striking thing in ITROFTS is the graphic, increasingly obscene, real sex that the story centers around. Oshima has no boundaries when it comes to showing his actors entangled amongst one another, and this, for many will seem unnecessary and overly pornographic. For those able to view it objectively however, it will add another dimension of realism to both the narrative and performances that is scarcely found. Despite its graphic nature and unrelentingly brutal sexuality there is also a sense of profound beauty throughout the film, brought upon it by the perfectly composed shots and melancholic traditional Japanese music that plays in the background. A sense of limbo accompanies said beauty and causes viewers to feel as if they are, much like Sada and Kichizo themselves, lost in the realm of the senses, victims of both visions of beauty and pain, yet unable to tell the two apart. Although effective, this sense of limbo is also accountable for some of the film's issues with pacing and plot, which often feels as if it is lost amongst the overriding eroticism Oshima was clearly more focused on. Overall, In the Realm of the Senses is a love it or hate it film, which, even if you do love, is impossible to recommend without looking slightly odd.
    Cameron S Super Reviewer
  • Apr 22, 2013
    In the Realm of the Senses was with a reason named Bullfight of Love on Japanese: Ai no Korida,(Spanish: Corrida)... and I had to cheer at the end to the actors and the director like on a real Corrida. This French-Japanese erotic art film directed by Nagisa Oshima could be classified as porn by many, but if that happens, please, let me know where can I find such porns! This film generated great controversy during its release, because it was intended for mainstream wide release, presenting Sada Abe "incident" (maybe the right name for the event) from 1930s Japan, that of Sada Abe with lots of scenes of unsimulated sexual activity between the actors (especially Tatsuya Fuji and Eiko Matsuda). And those scenes were amazing with acting of the main characters. Yes, there is amazingly sexually explicit treatment of the events but the French title of the movie covers that: L'Empire des sens. This was one of the most sensual movies I ever experienced - everything was somehow connected to sensing, feeling, passion or building any of those feelings. The story of former prostitute Sada Abe (Eiko Matsuda) who starts an affair with the hotel's owner where she now works as a maid, Kichizo Ishida (Tatsuya Fuji), is out of this world! It is told in very unique way and even when the owner molests her, and the two begin an intense affair that consists of sexual experiments, drinking, and various self-indulgences - nothing seems too much or unusual. That is the beauty of this film - Nagisa Oshima pushes the boundaries and almost forces us (very smoothly) to accept them as only possible "normal" outcome! It slows down a little bit after the middle part but picks up the tempo with incredible punch: Just imagine the last scene in which Abe then severs his penis and testicles and writes, "Sada Kichi the two of us forever," in blood on his chest... anyone else has done it before? I didn't think so... Not for everyone, but I will recommend it to people who love art and are not uncomfortable seeing love and lust in action.
    Panta O Super Reviewer
  • Apr 03, 2013
    I saw "Into the Realm of the Senses" without any knowledge before viewing it so imagine my shock when I discover there such a thing as an "erotic art" genre. Not only that but after doing some research it turns this movie is based on a true story on Sada Abe personal experiences. Having seen this film which mostly consisted of two couple having sex works in the film context, though has far too little substance not to be consider a porno. Also I must apologize for any unintentional innuendo since writing about this film was more difficult than I originally thought. In the Realm of the Senses is based on a true story set in pre-war Japan, a man and one of his servants begin a torrid affair. Their desire becomes a sexual obsession so strong that to intensify their ardor, they forsake all, even life itself. That's pretty much all that happens in its 100 minute run-time, aside from Sada Abe cutting off her husband Slim Jim. Now the film does justify the endless amount of sex shown because in terms of the story it's primarily character driven. This is the only way the two characters know how to show affection for each other even if its kills them. There's even some conflict the characters faced whenever they become separated and can't control their desire for each other. Even jealousy plays a part the further it goes. The more obsessed Sada Abe becomes the more threatening she is towards her husband doubting his faithfulness towards her. This is a trait that shows she is not entirely mentally stable. Sex in this movie is meant to represent the couple state in their relationship by showing the two when they enjoy it and struggling to continue with their love. Now that's just mine interpretation of the story. As much as I am praising it this is not a universally approachable film. You have to see it and form your own conclusion since it content is not something everyone can form a single conclusion towards. So can it be considered a porno? Yes and no. The couple we follow are each one dimensional. The only amount development you'll get is one character is a former prostitute and the man she loves is an unfaithful husband. It can't be consider a porno for this reason because both do have one dimensional characters. Then the sex scenes are very explicit and unstimulated. So for all adults and parents if you do plan on seeing keep it away from kids. For this reason some will regard this as a porno, but remember their are several film that also feature unstimulated sex scenes too. Though there are times it gets across some bizarre fetishes. Like a scene in which the husband insert an egg into his know and tells her to act like a hen. Then the husband goes on to eat the egg. Also no film or porno I know would go as far as to show kids naked on screen because that is plain tasteless. No matter what the kids where to meant to represent in the scene it's just uncomfortable. Worst being an obvious edit in the version I got in which a woman grabs the naked boy and it zooms to not show what she's doing with the young boy. Some might argue it could be harmless, but if it was then there would be no need to alter it. This is also the primary reason I can't recommend it either. Into the Realm of the Senses is an unconventional character driven film that's deep in it meaning or plain porn with a plot depending whose talking about it. It's not something the masses should go out seeing since it's rough story is hard to view and can get very uncomfortable. This is one of those artistic film in which you either think is telling something deep or disregard as being pretentious.
    Caesar M Super Reviewer

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