Director Kenji Mizoguchi’s 1952 film The Life of Oharu follows a woman’s life, as she finds herself in various of society’s roles – concubine, courtesan, wife, prostitute, nun – each shift greeting her with new tragedy. It examines the place and experience of women under feudal patriarchal rule, and finally questions the Buddhist doctrine of life as suffering. While Oharu is constantly punished at just about every turn for her very existence, Mizoguchi seems to be pointing the finger at society.
For me, there were two scenes that spoke to me. In only two instances does she have a chance to view the child she bore as a concubine to a wealthy lord, and in both cases she barely catches a glimpse. In fact, the audience too, only gets to see what she sees, which is hardly satisfying. In both shots, as is characteristic of the filmmaker, he takes a wide-angle and highly choreographed approach. This is not only interesting, but also includes all of Japan in the tragedy.