Ai no corrida. (In the Realm of Senses (USA title) or Bullfight of Love (literal English title)) Dir. Nagisha Oshima. Perf. Eiko Matsuda and Tatsuya Fuji. Genius Entertainment, Wellspring, 197612
The film is set in 1936 Tokyo, where Sada Abe (Eiko Matsuda) a former prostitute, now works in a hotel as a maid. Sada with her coworkers witness a sexual act between hotel’s owner Kichizo Ishida (Tatsuya Fuji) and his wife.
After one innocent meeting on the porch Sada and Kichizo begin an intense affair that consists of little other that sexual experiments, drinking, and various self-indulgences. Sada’s obsession with Kichizo grows to the point that she has to have his sexual organs always inside of her. Sada falls deeper and deeper in love with Kichizo. One day they perform a very similar ritual as if they are getting married. After the ritual Sada feels that Kichizo belongs to her. She cannot stand even an hour without him. She follows Kichizo even when he is finally visiting his wife. Sada becomes obsessed with Kichizo and wants him all the time. She threatens to kill him if he so much as looks at another woman (including his own wife).
Their obsession with each other escalates to the point that Kichizo lets Sada strangle him during the love making. Finally Sada kills Kichizo while Kichizo’s organs are inside of her. After that Sada severs Kichizo’s genitals and writes “Sada and Kichizo, now one” in blood on his chest.
RENEE: The world is filled with people who despise what they cannot imagine. They enjoy their afternoons napping in the hammock. But before they know it they acquire breasts of brass, a belly of brass, and they sparkle if you polish them. You know your kind, when you see a rose you say, “How pretty!” And when you see a snake you say, “How disgusting!” You know nothing of the world where the rose and the snake are intimates and at night exchange shapes, the snake’s cheeks turning red and the rose putting forth shining scales. When you see a rabbit you say, “How sweet!” and when you see a lion you say, “How frightening!” You’ve never realized what blood they shed on a stormy nights out of love for each other. You know nothing of nights when holiness and shame imperceptibly switch appearances. That is why you plot to exterminate such nights, once you’ve finished mocking them with your brains of brass. But if there were no longer any nights, not even you and your kind could again enjoy untroubled sleep.13
Have you ever felt a body ache from something your senses feel, but cannot define? Yes, that physical pain which comes from somewhere inside your mind and body. Somehow it gets activated by an atom or a small part of undefined sense. It keeps bouncing around the soul until it gets so aggravated that there is that unavoidable need for cry. And what if you cannot cry? What if you are born in a place where a “cry for body” is considered evil? But “I have an infinite hunger for love / for the love of bodies without souls,” Pasolini wrote.14
The controversy of this film consists of pain which is born of a mind without reason. The reasonless pain gives birth to a helpless feeling. Not many can accept that undefined feeling which makes them squirm and writhe. They would rather go and kill it with knowledge of something which cannot be explained. Kant is helpless. His guidance for reason hits the wall, when the soul cries for the need to be physically touched. That pain just grows deeper when one meets another and “understands” that there is no way away from it but death. The pain which is born by reason and will to be touched hurts more. It doesn’t let the body go. The reasoning mind wants to come and help. But in that case the help is destructive. It is full of undefined sadness. The shaken soul goes asking “undersoul” why it is so that one soul cannot satisfy another body’s reason, the reason for another body’s pain? Descartes said in the Treatise on the Passions of the Soul: “That to know the passions of the soul, one must distinguish its functions from those of the body”; in Sade it became: “To know the passions of the body, one must distinguish its functions from those of the soul.” In the [Lucienne Frappier-Mazur] Writing the Orgy it reads: “To serve the body, one must first tame it. As always, the head is committed to the service of the body.”15
It seems like it all gets round and lost in circle, a circle which doesn’t let one go. Is that another person who feels the same pain, but has no explanation for it?
One needs to stop that future pain which comes from our depth. What can one do?
Nietzsche said that to feel no pain one must despise one’s body: “body am I entirely, and nothing else; and soul is only a word for something about the body.”16 What if I knew that “soul” is not the only word for something about my body? What if I feel the pain not within my body, but within my soul? I know that there is no body without a soul unless one dies. My body has an aching soul. It comes not from my wisdom, but from my knowledge of another body. Is it possible that my body thinks? Does it really know the difference between the pain and pleasure? What if the pain comes from pleasure and pleasure comes from pain? The soul is helpless here. It cries: I want “to go under.”
A soul is asking, but it gets refused and banned from the future.
In the Realm of the Senses, Sada kills Kichizo, thus becoming one with him. Again Eros and Thanatos are together within soul and body. Sada has Kichizo’s sexual organs. She gets what she is missing; thus she fulfills the void in her body.
“Did you suck my penis all night long?” asks Kichizo.
“I want to have it inside of me all the time,” smiles Sada.
To understand the controversy of the film, one has to be repressed. If one is free and listens to one’s body, one understands the need for touch. Freud “thought that the taboo generally countered the desire to touch.”17 Touching a naked body equals touching a dead body. To touch a dead body is taboo. The fear of giving birth to death appears. If a body does not get the touch it needs the body starts aching. If bodily pain is too hard to handle without knowing why, one gets confused, thus undefined. The reason for censoring the film comes from the undefined body or from the soul which refuses to be touched.
From the early ages when there was a superstition that you need to eat another body to fix your body’s ache, one went, got that body, and ate it. Kichizo lets Sada “eat” him. Nietzsche says: “One must cease letting oneself be eaten when one tastes best: that is known to those who want to be loved long.”18
Sada will never heal her body ache, because her body does not have the organ she retrieved from Kichizo. One never should censor body parts if one does not want to have his soul cry over it.
To be continued…
- In the Realm of Senses was banned in most countries upon its initial theatrical release. Certification status of the film today: Argentina: 18; Australia: (Banned) (1992-2000); Australia: R (re-rating) (2000)Australia: X (original rating); Canada: R (Ontario) (1991); Canada: R (Manitoba) 28; Canada: R (Alberta) (1998); Canada: (Banned) (Nova Scotia); Canada: 18+ (Quebec); Chile: 18; Finland: K-18 (uncut) (1979); Finland: K-16 (uncut) (1979); Finland: (Banned) (uncut) (1978); Finland: (Banned) (uncut) (1976); Finland: (Banned) (cut) 1977); France: -16; Germany: 18; Hong Kong: III; Hungary: 18; Iceland: Unrated; Ireland: (Banned); Italy: VM18; Japan: R-18 (Re-rating); Japan: (Banned) (original rating); New Zealand: R18 (Re-rating) (2001); New Zealand: (Banned) (original rating); Norway: 18; Singapore: (Banned); South Korea: 18 (1999); Sweden: 15; UK: 18; USA: X (Original rating); USA: NC-17 (Re-rating) (1991) 29
- Yukio Mishima, Madame de Sade (New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1967), 73.
- Barth David Schwartz, Pasolini Requiem (New York: Pantheon Books, 1992), 52.
- Lucienne Frappier-Mazur, Writing the Orgy: Power and Parody in Sade (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996), 122.
- Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 34.
- George Bataille, Erotism: Death and Sensuality (New York: Walker, 1962), 47.
- Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 72.