These essays are specifically for reading after ones personal viewing
I fell in love with Kineto Shindo after his mesmerizingly-fantastique, Kuroneko. He instantly became my favorite Japanese director (specifically for the purpose of me not having one yet, despite having seen a fair share of Japanese films). I quickly gathered myself after watching Kureneko during the, Seafarers Annual 31 Days Of Horror Fest, and clicked the Wish List on each of the films that followed his carrer in Criterion. A friend and fellow writer of The Seafarers, reached his purchase before mine was even shipped; apparently, I wasn't the only one in on this fixation.
If you don't love or aren't familiar with Japanese culture, it'll be obvious when sitting and watching a film like Onibaba with you. And next will follow a series of play-on-word-puns from those friends, and eventually joining in because of its addictiveness: "She must feel so alonibaba," "Quick! Throw the stonibaba!" "This guy is such a moanibaba," "This movie has such an odd tonibaba,""This guy wants a little bonibaba." Are those even play-on-words? A double entendre, maybe? Anyways, luckily I had my notebook, or I wouldn't have remembered anything else.
Quite close are the themes in both films: the two main characters are a lonibaba mother, whose lost her son to the war, and her lonibaba daughter-in-law. The sexual repression is steaming from the moment we enter the film. The women sleep with their chests bare, due to the sweltering nights of Japan, that enslave their sexual fantasies and heighten the sense of deliriousness to those famished by small rashons of war. And we are constantly presented with fantastic shots of wheat, waving like a mother wanting back the son she's lost.
As the younger gets involved with the returned samurai, the sweat and anything leading up to that sweat, is a metaphor into the mothers lost and wanting womb: beating clothes on logs and licking lips, licking chickens as a form of flirting. Not that I don't love the metaphors and cinematography - the young woman meeting the samurai through the wheat field and their outlines becoming only bodies, later used for the satisfaction of lust - but the tediousness does settle in a bit with the mothers progression of jealousy. And it's until she decides to do something where we find ourselves again, lost in the folklore of Shindonibaba.
This mother has been enslaved by her lonibabaness, if the girl runs off with the samurai, she'll have nothing. After seeing the couple together for the first time late at night, she runs out to a large and thick tree and throws her arms around it - crying and wanting the lust of this tree to repress her thoughts of loneliness, like it does for the young couple.
I liked Onibaba. I think you can see the progression through Onibaba, to Kureneko and how much Shindo had grownibaba'd. But Onibaba leaves you satisfied during the strong hits of release upon the mask of torture. And when the mask is removed, all the sins are presented to us, not in the afterlife, but upon the earth that stirs up its hate.