With its dual status as masterpiece of Japanese cinema and confiscated piece of pornography, In the Realm of the Senses is simultaneously divisive and unforgettable. Senses famously depicted actual, explicit sexual intercourse to tell the true story of Sada Abe (Eiko Matsuda) and her obsession with employer Kichizo Ishida (Tatsuya Fuji), who leaves his family to become her lover. Encased in a world of sweat and sake, the two shut out reality and make love nonstop until Sada’s appetites become destructive. Still, their romance is as admirable as it is hedonistic, as they shut out their country in the tumultuous years leading up to the Pacific War.
Despite the real sex and the worship Sada lavishes on her lover’s bare body, In the Realm of the Senses is measured and restrained, more of a meditation than an exploitation. Still regrettably unseen in Japan (where the real Sada Abe became a folk hero), Senses is as brave and beautiful as any true love story on screen.
By Britta R. Moline 7/23/2011