IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES. Shocking true story

The work of Nagisa Oshima caused a scandal even before its premiere, when production was moved to France to finish work on it.


23 June 2023

in the realm of the senses sex scene

At its Cannes premiere, audiences were shocked by the film’s literalness and bold almost pornographic scenes.

True story

The plot of In the Realm of the Senses is based on real events that took place in pre-war Japan. The main characters are a couple of lovers – Sada and Kichizo. But it’s not the kind of romance that romantic comedies or melodramas are used to. Their mutual dependence has an almost narcotic form. This relationship has little to do with love, it’s obsessive, bordering on madness lust for the other person. They both lose themselves, cutting off from the outside world. For Sada and Kichizo, the whole world could cease to exist if they had each other.

The film shows the destructive influence of a toxic relationship on the main characters in a very interesting way. Sex for a couple of lovers is not one of the elements of the relationship here, but the central and only point. There is no room for emotions here. It is a relationship in which the other person is not the subject, but only the object. Love exists only in the declarative sphere, it is hard to notice, although we hear about it all the time.

in the realm of the senses knife in the mouth

In order to illustrate the nature of the relationship between the main characters, the director focused on realism. At first glance, the film is no different from ordinary porn. Sex scenes fill almost every minute, but fortunately they did not overwhelm the story, but only complemented it. It was undoubtedly a bold decision by the director, and considering the fact that the film was made in the 1970s, it is amazing that he managed to get his way. It’s been a few years since the premiere of the first porn in theatrical distribution, but here we are dealing with a film aspiring to be ambitious. He made his debut not in a niche XXX cinema productions, but at the Cannes festival. Interestingly, all the scenes were played by the actors themselves, not doubles, as in the case of Antichrist for example. Such bold scenes made the film immediately famous, and its distribution was limited for a very long time after its premiere.

Too much sex?

Unfortunately, in places you can get the impression that the director exaggerated with the abundance of sex scenes. They fill almost the entire film, which makes the narrative monotonous after some time. The plot, although interesting, is not particularly developed. In principle, it could be fit into a short film, and not stretched to an hour and a half. In addition, after some time, the development of the action becomes very predictable and it’s hard to be surprised in the grand finale.

in the realm of the senses from behind

The biggest advantage is the pair of main characters. The film is based almost entirely on the acting of Eiko Matsuda as Sada and Tatsuya Fujii as Kichizo. They both created very interesting and well-played characters. The character of Sada in particular attracts attention and is the main driving force of the plot. Her madness and extreme emotions are brilliantly portrayed. The actress managed to avoid exaggeration or kitsch, which was very easy.

Technical side of In the Realm of the Senses also looks very good. The cinematography really reflect the atmosphere of the story. All the interiors and costumes look great. Only a few outdoor scenes  seem a bit artificial and shot in a studio.

In the Realm of the Senses is a one-of-a-kind film. An interesting story, bold production and masterful acting make it hard to forget.



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