In a remote 19th-century village in Japan, food is so scarce that babies are left to die, and thieves who steal a few potatoes are buried alive with their families. And when the elderly reach the age of 70, they are banished to a frigid mountain so that their families won't have to feed them. The film begins one winter, as the 69-year-old Orin (Sumiko Sakamoto) prepares to ascend Mount Narayama. Meanwhile, one of her sons tries to convince her to live, while her other son, who has body odor problems, desperately searches for sexual release.
Director Shohei Imamura picks up where he left off in THE PROFOUND DESIRE OF THE GODS and shatters the stereotype of Japanese as a polite, quiet people fond of tea ceremonies and geishas. A remake of director Keisuke Kinoshita's 1958 film NARAYAMA BUSHI-KO and based on MEN OF TOHOKU by Shichiro Fukuzawa, Imamura's film is profane, shocking, and disturbing. Scenes of human coupling are juxtaposed with scenes of insects and animals having sex, as if to emphasize the savagery of these villagers. Despite these lurid images, the film is a thought-provoking account of humans trying to preserve their dignity and traditions in the face of harsh conditions.
Cannes Palme d'Or 1983