A story is not about facts.
And, and, and…
The second story in Kwaidan was The Woman of the Snow, about a ghost that can claim the lives of mortals. She appears to blow onto their faces, freezing them to death, and the victims are later described as having no blood (or something like that). Despite her desire to kill people during snowstorms, she is not entirely absent of other desires or pity. The cold, frightening, powerful ghost compared to the subservient, warm, loving wife is interesting, but most especially after you can see where they overlap and how her sense of power and compassion affects her speech.
In this story, the theatrical nature of the environments are heightened one step further. There are scenes where the environment does not look real at all, and surrealism takes over to depict the true feeling of the moment. Visually speaking, that was perhaps my favourite part of this story. The movement of the trees during the snowstorm (along with the music) and the first meeting of the ghost woman were, of course, not really something I could represent in a single screen shot. Or even multiple. It was a strange combination of stillness or silence, and specific, graceful, unhesitating action.
At the end, I thought a lot about identity. You might not want to read this part if you haven’t seen the movie. On the surface, she decided one night to test his vow of silence. He failed her test, and she didn’t kill him because of their children, but she did leave them immediately. Given the context, it’s not surprising at all that he would tell his wife about that night. So, really, why did she suddenly decide to leave?
It reminds me of other stories I’ve read about female ghosts, entities,spirits and so forth that match up with men, then suddenly leave and “return” to their dominant identity.
I learned how to take screen shots. Finally.
We watched Masaki Kobayashi’s Kwaidan (1964) the other day. The stories and their theatrical visualization were really engaging, especially in the first three. The Black Hair had a moodiness to it that felt a bit gothic, but not merely for the sake of being “dark” and “creepy”. There were also some nice spatial relationships happening in quite a few scenes. My favourite part of it all was how his memory of his first wife was mostly confined to her work as a weaver, yet the lighting would change. When he was caught up in terror, the shape and colour of his terror changed rapidly. The hair, the separation of love and desire, the posturing of power, the decay from neglect, overgrowth, etc. are all old lovers. (As always, click image to view larger.)