The Pillow Book (Film)

Skin in The Pillow Book

In the opening sequence of The Pillow Book, a small Japanese girl sits before her father on her birthday while he paints on her face and the back of her neck with calligrapher’s ink. As he writes on her he chants in Japanese: “When God made the first clay model of a human being, He painted in the eyes, the lips, and the sex. Then He painted in each person’s name, lest the owner should ever forget it.” This mantra serves as a chorus throughout The Pillow Book as well as a warning. Nagiko, the film’s protagonist, becomes obsessed with skin, the body’s shell. At times, she disregards the person. However, as her fetish with skin grows, it begins to overtake her own identity and Nagiko ultimately finds herself lost in a world of distrust, jealousy, and skin. For Nagiko, using the body as paper becomes a sensual experience because it reminds her of her Father’s person and human.

Family is perhaps the best predictor of the person. Parents, in particular, shape their children genetically, giving them their bodies, and socially, by developing and manipulating their children’s personalities. Nagiko recognized and honored the connection she shared with her father and how he had shaped her. She even took to the practice of writing on skin...

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