Melodrama, tears, and life of Oharu

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)


Many of Mizoguchi’s films portray suffering women, but Life of Oharu (1952) may surpass all his others in the depth of suffering portrayed. The film features a young woman, Oharu, who is the daughter of an Imperial samurai. After a brief relationship with a lower class man, her family is exiled from the Imperial court. This event starts a series of misfortunes which, through many episodes, push her down the social ladder and track her moral descent. Ultimately, in her old age, she is reduced to a pathetic, elderly beggar. The film’s tone straightforwardly reflects its subject matter: it is quite sad to watch Oharu systematically destroyed and left with no sense of a brighter future. Yet, other films have portrayed similarly tragic events but fail to move their audience. In this paper, I will discuss various theories of how a film’s narrative structure can affect its ability to generate sadness, and analyze how Oharu arranges its narration in a particularly effective manner towards this end.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-11
Number of pages1
Journal16:9: filmtidsskrift
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2004
Externally publishedYes


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