Double Suicide

Introduction

Double Suicide (心中天網島, Shinjū: Ten no Amijima) is a 1969 film directed by Masahiro Shinoda. It is based on the 1721 play The Love Suicides at Amijima by Monzaemon Chikamatsu. This play is often performed in the bunraku style (that is, with puppets). In the film, the story is performed with live actors, but also makes use of Japanese theatrical traditions such as the kuroko (stagehands dressed entirely in black) who invisibly interact with the actors, and the set is non-realist. The film opens with the preparations by the kuroko for a modern-day presentation of a puppet play while a voice-over is heard of someone, presumably the director, calling on the telephone to find a location for the penultimate scene of the lovers' suicide. Soon human actors are substituted for the puppets, and the action proceeds in a naturalistic fashion, until from time to time the kuroko intervene to accomplish scene shifts or heighten the dramatic intensity of the two lovers' resolve to be united in death.

The stylized sets and the period costumes and props simultaneously convey a classical theatricality and contemporaneous modernity. Jihei's fatal love interest, Koharu the prostitute, and his neglected wife, Osan, are both played by actress Shima Iwashita.

This film was released on DVD in Japanese with English subtitles in Region 1 on 30 January 2001.


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