FILM: Genji Monogatari Sennen no Nazo (2011) Jul 29, 2013 9:51:05 GMT -5
Post by Ōgiyame no Emi on Jul 29, 2013 9:51:05 GMT -5
I finally managed to lay eyes on a copy of "Tale of Genji: a thousand year enigma" (trailer available readily on youtube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDp5S_99DvQ ). A highly simplified fantasy telling of Murasaki Shikibu's writing of the Tale, with moments of real beauty thanks to exquisitely lush costumes and sets. For that reason alone this film is indeed worth a look in if you can uncover a copy, however those hoping for an accurate depiction of Heian makeup and courtly fashions throughout the seasons should take this one with a rather large pinch of shio.
Plot: The film is a retelling of Murasaki Shibu's time at the palace, while writing her infamous Genji Monogatari. The twin plots of Murasaki's life and the exploits of her fictional hero are woven in parallel; at times her reality and that of Genji's world blur, and Murasaki herself is portrayed with hints of instability.
Thoughts: As a fantasy rather than a historical piece it is worth mentioning that the costumes, though lovely in fabric and accurate in construction, are used as visual cues to denote characters rather than as functioning clothing. Over the months and years writing her tale lady Murasaki's robes of exquisitely woven silk are an unbroken stream of purples and greens, her nagabakama a decidedly un-widowlike purple where others wear red. Her casual robe is a riot of embroidered wisteria blooms. Wisterias feature frequently on the whole, their presence a constant reminder of Murasaki herself and her Fujiwara ties.
Where attention has been lavished on costumes, sets and hair, it seems lacking in terms of makeup. All female characters have white teeth and impeccable modern eyebrows... bar one. A short scene between Genji's mother Lady Kiritsubo and her shrill palace rival Lady Kokiden shows the latter with high, feathery hikimayu brows, but white teeth. This confused use of courtly makeup makes for a rather odd viewing to anyone who studies the period. A shame really, since the actresses are all highly elegant and lovely women; to see them in lamplit shadows with blackened teeth, powdered faces and moth brows would have helped introduce Heian standards of beauty to the audience.
For all its flaws, this film is still deserving of a look should you have the chance, if only for the sake of one shot of an insurmountable beauty. A young and broken hearted Genji, having just witnessed his beloved and forbidden Fujitsubo take her holy vows, is wandering the streets in a daze. As he crosses a bridge wreathed in mist, a woman in travelling dress draws near from the other side. This woman is Murasaki herself, his creator, having just left in the 'real' world for a journey to her home. As maker and muse stare at each other through the mist, Genji asks her in anguish, when will it end? Her smile is enigmatic. Genji will continue to live on, she tells him, experiencing love in all its guises... charming the hearts of readers and lovers alike, across eternity.
He laughs, and walks away into the sunrise amid a vast field littered with cart wheels swirling with dawn mist. The shot perfectly mimics the Heian lacquerware motif of cartwheels in river waters, itself a beautiful expression of mono no aware: the everyday practice of soaking the wheels of ox carts in water to prevent cracking, rendered in a way that turns ones' thoughts to the fleeting nature of life, the infinitely turning wheels of life, rebirth and karma.