*** This comment may contain spoilers ***
Based of the old and unusual Japanese legend, Shohei Imamura's "The Ballad of Narayama" won the Golden Palm in 1983 Cannes Festival. Set in the 19th century in a remote mountain village in the north of the country, it tells of the custom according to which when a person reached 70 years old they were taken to the top of Mount Narayama and left there to die.
When I saw "The Ballad of Narayama" back in the 80s, I did not know anything about it. There were no commercials; the film was not widely released. I think it was only two shows in the theater near our house in Moscow. All we knew that the film was a Cannes Festival winner. Our sons were little then, we did not have a babysitter, and we bought tickets to two different shows. My husband went first, and when he came back, I waited for him at the door, ready to leave. He looked quiet, serious and withdrawn when he returned home. I asked him how the movie was and he said to me to go and see it, and then we'd talk...After I came home, I did not want to talk, I did not know what to say, I was overwhelmed - with the unique style of film-making that I did not know even existed, with the images, but also with the very simplicity of the story and with the whole concept of surviving above everything else. Among the most devastating scenes for me was the old woman readily and happily accepting her turn to be taken to Narayma. The woman of perfect health and mind, the one who is perhaps the sanest in her family is so tired of this life that she on purpose knocks out one of her teeth just to seem older, more fragile, helpless, and ill and to be taken to the long -awaited rest. But before she is taken to Naryama, she will take care of her three grown sons' problems.
There are many unforgettable scenes in the film, both bleak and life-affirming. One stands out after all these years. There is a shining brilliant spring day, and every living creature in sight is engaged in love, young couple on the swing, birds, animals, and snakes - the whole nature celebrates life and longing and love. And soon after that, as the contrast, the horrifying scene where the family of thieves who had stolen some food from the neighbors are buried alive.
And there is the final part - the ascent to Narayama, the middle-aged son carries his mother to her final resting place, the last minutes between a son and his mother, and then, the snow in the end, white and pure, covering the earth and preparing it for the long sleep, and covering the old Orin, comforting her softly and preparing her for eternity...