Kinkaku-ji/ The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (1956) is about an
obsession, a love/hate relationship that can be satisfied only with an act of
destruction. But it also a description of a soul torn between good and evil,
between kindness and cruelty. Gentle feelings are often followed by brutal
scenes or cynical discussions. To complicate matters there is an underlying
theme of mystification: nothing is what it appears to be.
Mizoguchi, the lonely stuttering son of a Zen priest, grows up at the beginning of World War II in a village dreaming of his father's temple in the big city, the Golden Temple that he has never seen.
Infatuated with a girl named Uiko, he witnesses her helping a deserter and then betraying him and then being killed by him.
Mizoguchi is disappointed when his ill father finally takes him to the Golden Temple to introduce him to the Superior. But, upon returning to the village, Mizoguchi begins dreaming again of the temple. When his father dies of his illness,
Mizoguchi does not feel sorrow but gladly joins the temple.
He meets another acolyte, Tsurukawa, a good boy.
When Japan is being bombed by the USA, Mizoguchi becomes convinced that the
millenary temple will be destroyed. Instead it is never bombed.
The most exciting thing to happen is that one day Mizoguchi and Tsurukawa
see a woman give her breast's milk to a soldier, a gesture that they cannot explain.
The war ends with the defeat of Japan, an event for which the Superior gives
a cryptic lecture based on a koan involving a cat.
The boy is now obsessed with becoming the next Superior of the temple and his manners seem to work well, ingratiating him to the Superior.
One day Mizoguchi witnesses a sadistic USA soldier abusing a pregnant
prostitute, and obeys the soldier when he invites him to step on her belly.
The cruelty exites him.
The Superior decides to send him to a prestigious university to complete his
studies. His fellow acolyte Tsurukawa is sent to the same university by his family.
However, the prostitute comes to the temple for ask for compensation for
the act that caused her miscarriage. Everybody now knows what terrible
thing Mizoguchi did, but the Superior does not say a single word to him,
letting him agonize in his fear of a punishment that never comes. Mizoguchi does
not even know whether the Superior believed the prostitute or not, whether he
believes he's innocent or guilty of the alleged misdeed.
Mizoguchi enters the university and meets another lonely kid, Kashiwagi, who is
the opposite of Tsurukawa: a clubfeet deformity made him cynical, arrogant
and cruel. In a long monologue Kashiwagi explains how he lost his virginity:
a beautiful girl fell in love with his deformity but he felt impotent and
rejoiced in rejecting her; but then he got excited by an elderly gullable
widow who believed his lie (that Buddha appeared to his mother and promised
nirvana to the woman who worshipped his clubfeet). This monologue itself is
basically a koan about love.
Kashiwagi's brutal nihilism becomes the new influence on Mizoguchi, counterbalancing and overpowering Tsurukawa's good influence.
One day Kashiwagi takes Mizoguchi to an excursion with two girls, a cute one
whom he is pursuing and a plump one. The plump girl tells Mizoguchi the story
of a girl who fell in love with an officer, got pregnant, lost the child and
gave her milk to the officer before he left for war, never to return again.
This was the scene that Mizoguchi witnessed towards the end of the war. (A koan solved). Mizoguchi cannot make love to the plump girl because the temple
appears to him, but Kashiwagi succeeds in seducing the cute girl.
The news reaches tham that Tsurukawa has died in a car accident.
After mourning Tsurukawa for one year, Mizoguchi falls again under the influence
of Kashiwagi's nihilism. Kashiwagi introduces him to the widow of the soldier,
to whom Kashiwagi has made love already. She taught him
how to make flower arrangements. She congratulates Kashiwagi for a flower
arrangement he has made of some flowers stolen by Mizoguchi for him, but
Kashiwagi replies replies that now he doesn't need her anymore. She runs away
humiliated. Mizoguchi follows her and tries to console her by
telling her the story of how he fell in love with her the first time he saw her
giving milk to that soldier. She offers him the same breast, but the Golden
Temple appears again paralyzing him again.
One day Mizoguchi spots the Superior with a geisha. The Superior has an angry
reaction but then ignores him. Determined to get more than silence, Mizoguchi
purchases a photo of the girl and leaves it inside the newspaper that he
personally delivers to the Superior every morning, so that there will be no
doubt who did it. The Superior does not react, but one day Mizoguchi finds the
photo in his room. The two were playing a psychological game again.
Mizoguchi realizes that his dream of becoming the next Superior of the temple
is rapidly vanishing. He begins neglecting the university until the Superior
has to tell him that he withdraws his support for his nomination.
Mizoguchi borrows money from Kashiwagi and leaves the temple.
He decides to head in the direction that a fortune teller advised against.
On the train he hears passengers criticizing the temple and accusing the
Superior of corruption. When he reaches the sea, he is overwhelmed by the
desire to burn down the Golden Temple.
Brought back by a police officer to the temple, Mizoguchi is more determined
than ever to burn it down.
Kashiwagi tells the Superior of Mizoguchi's debt. The Superior pays, but
Mizoguchi's reputation keeps plunging.
Kashiwagi tells Mizoguchi that Tsurukawa was his friend too. In fact, he has
a whole bundle of letters from the dead acolyte. Kashiwagi is convinced that
Tsurukawa committed suicide.
Mizoguchi spends the university fees to go with prostitutes, knowing that
the punishment will be expulsion from the temple.
He hears of the Korean war and fears that the world is about to end.
He hurries up and sets fire to the temple before it's too late.
He had planned to poison himself but then decides that he wants to live.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx) |
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