Jigoku [地獄] (1960)
AKA Hell & The Sinners of Hell
Starring Shigeru Amachi, Utako Mitsuya, Yôichi Numata, Hiroshi Hayashi, Jun Ôtomo, Akiko Yamashita, Kiyoko Tsuji, Fumiko Miyata, Torahiko Nakamura, Kimie Tokudaiji, Akiko Ono
Directed by Nobuo Nakagawa
Jigoku begins similarly to Nobuo Nakagawa’s previous film The Ghost of Yotsuya, slow yet interesting. The difference here is that where Yotsuya gets good quickly and builds itself to a fever pitch, Jigoku continues on about this slow yet interesting path till its final moments, resulting in a disappointing film that, unsurprisingly, is slow yet interesting. It opens with a song, like Yotsuya, and this song’s key lyric relates that some criminals may slip through the net of the law, but no one can evade their own conscience.
Jigoku has a plot, but it’s one that isn’t really integral to the experience. Those seeking a standard narrative flow should look elsewhere, as Jigoku has other priorities in mind. What exactly those priorities are, I haven’t quite figured out, but I don’t mean to say that the film seems unfocused or poorly made. On the contrary, it is very sure of itself and focused, but most of its impact and symbolism was completely lost on me. For instance, there’s a ton of females with umbrellas in the film. There’s a woman towards the end who’s trapped on a burning water wheel. These and many more are all things that I’m sure have deeper meanings, but again, they were lost on me. Perhaps with another viewing they could reveal their meanings, but I doubt I’ll be watching this again anytime soon.