Film series: Vengeful ghosts, ghoulish demons

    • 	Image: Still from Onibaba (1964). Courtesy Kindai Eiga Kyokai
    • Supernatural tales from Japan

      Art After Hours, Film

Nō (or noh) is not only the oldest performing art form in Japan; it is one of the oldest extant theatrical forms in the world. During the Edo period (1615-1868), all five types of nō play would be presented over the course of a day-long performance, each followed by a brief, comical interlude known as kyōgen. In the final play at the end of the day (known as Kiri), devils, strange beasts, vengeful ghosts, spirits and phantasms were often featured with tales of malevolent supernatural forms being defeated.

Many nō ghost stories and popular folktales of the Edo period have been used as source material for modern films, often incorporating traditional characteristics of legendary Japanese ghosts and ghouls.

Screening in conjunction with the exhibition Theatre of dreams, theatre of play: nō and kyōgen in Japan, this series of Japanese movies presents supernatural tales of revenge and ghostly appearances.

Wednesdays 2pm & 7.15pm, Sundays 2pm
30 July - 17 August 2014


Films start at the advertised time. Doors open 30 minutes before. Tickets are issued at the Domain Theatre one hour before. Latecomers not admitted.

Location: Domain Theatre

Related exhibition: Theatre of dreams, theatre of play

Related galleries: Asian galleries

The Japan Foundation National Film & Sound Archive

Image: Still from Onibaba (1964). Courtesy Kindai Eiga Kyokai

    • Onibaba


      Wednesday 30 July 2pm – 3:43pm

      Wednesday 30 July 7:15pm – 8:58pm

      Sunday 3 August 2pm – 3:43pm

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      Dir: Kaneto Shindô 1964 (Jap)
      103 mins 35mm B&W Rated R (unclassified)
      Nobuko Otowa, Yitsuko Yoshimura
      Japanese with English subtitles
      In one of the most striking and unique Japanese supernatural thrillers of the last century, an impoverished mother and her daughter-in-law eke out a lonely existence on the wind-swept marshes of war-torn medieval Japan. The two women murder samurai warriors to steal their possessions, living off the meagre spoils by trading their armour for food. When a neighbouring soldier returns from the skirmishes, he assists the women with their grisly trade, but soon jealousy intervenes to threaten the trio’s tenuous existence. Kaneto Shindo’s chilling folktale, his biggest international success, features a fearsome Nō demon mask and a frenetic drumming soundtrack scored by Hikaru Hayashi.
      Print courtesy the Japan Foundation, Sydney

    • Throne of blood


      Wednesday 6 August 2pm – 3:50pm

      Wednesday 6 August 7:15pm – 9:05pm

      Sunday 10 August 2pm – 3:50pm

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      Dir: Akira Kurosawa 1957 (Japan)
      110 mins 35mm B&W Rated PG
      Toshiro Mifune, Isuzu Yamada
      Japanese with English subtitles
      Kurosawa’s visceral, supernatural masterpiece is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, set in feudal Japan, featuring an ambitious samurai warlord, Washizu (Toshiro Mifune), and his ruthless wife. Kurosawa interprets the play through the medium of traditional nō theatre, adapting the austere formalism, symmetry, honed gestures and expressive masks. Mt Fuji provides the dread-laden backdrop against which the actors move in carefully stylised patterns. Production designer Yoshiro Muraki remembers: 'To emphasise the psychology of the hero, driven by compulsion, we made the interior sets wide with low ceilings and squat pillars to create the effect of oppression… The low, squat exteriors of the castle set were built high up on Mt Fuji to take advantage of the fog and black volcanic soil.’
      Print courtesy the Japan Foundation, Sydney

    • Ring


      Wednesday 13 August 2pm – 3:36pm

      Wednesday 13 August 7:15pm – 8:51pm

      Sunday 17 August 2pm – 3:36pm

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      Hideo Nakata 1998 (Japan)
      96 mins 35mm Colour Rated MA15+
      Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani
      Japanese with English subtitles
      Hideo Nakata’s subtly creepy ghost story was adapted from the novel by Suzuki Kōji, which in turn drew inspiration from a Japanese folktale. It follows TV reporter and single mother Reiko (Nanako Matsushima) who is caught up in a series of inexplicable deaths involving a supernaturally cursed video tape circulating among teenagers. A major box office hit in Japan, the true horror of Ring does not lie in its ghosts, but rather in the inability of the central characters to comprehend the vast and menacing world that lies outside their realm.
      Print courtesy National Film and Sound Archive of Australia