Kaidan (1964) (aka Kwaidan)
Masaki Kobayashi

“We forgot to write the holy text on his ears”

KwaidanVery few films have come out that are based on mythology of their country of origin. Except for the slew of animations films, there are no mainstream mythological films from India, a country with the richest mythology. Japan, on the other hand is conscious of its heritage and has adapted the same in various forms. Masaki Kobayashi’s Kaidan (1964) is based on a compilation of ghost stories from Japan and consists of four segments.

The first segment “Black Hair” follows a jobless samurai who has divorced his wife in exchange for a prestigious social position. He repents his decision and decides to return to his wife only to discover that she is dead. The second sequence titled “The Woman Of The Snow” has a young woodcutter witnessing a beautiful female ghost in a snowstorm and is haunted by the vision. Years later he comes to know that his young wife is a human form of the spectre he had seen. The third story “Hoichi, The Earless” tells about the mysterious disappearance at nights of the title character who is a blind monk living in a temple. When the senior monks conclude that it is a work of the spirits of the Heike army which perished near the temples years ago and tries to clear the situation. Things become worse when the discussed plan is not implemented perfectly resulting in the loss of ears of Hoichi. The final segment called “In A Cup Of Tea” involves a samurai who consumes a soul residing in a cup of tea, refuses to respect it and faces the consequences. The film ends in a rounded manner that reflects the structure of the final story.

The film does not frighten the viewer nor is it its intention. Amazing production design reflect the quality of investment of this multi-million project. Almost the whole of the first three stories is shot indoors in fabulous sets that set up the required eerie environment. For its rich visuals and exquisite cinematography in the widescreen, the film won the special jury prises at the Cannes Film Festival in 1965