Thursday, November 5, 1998

Brecht and Cinema

Oshima's Death By Hanging

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

The 3rd in our 5-part series of films influenced by Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)

One of the most important directors in Japanese New Wave, Nagisa Oshima incorporates a complex and dynamic mix of politics, violence, eroticism and self-reflexivity in his early work. His ‘Brechtian tour de force’, Death by Hanging (1968) is one of his most highly regarded films. Repetition, stylized sets and grotesque comedy are elements in this damning satire on capital punishment and Japanese justice. Based on an actual criminal case, the film tells the story of the execution of a Korean worker found guilty of rape and the authorities’ bizarre reenactments of his crimes. Both formally and politically trenchant, the film explores the oppression of Koreans in Japan, capital punishment as political control and sexual murder as an outcome of social repression.