The Ballad of Narayama

"From two-time Palme d’Or-winning director Shohei IMAMURA comes a powerful and unforgettable human drama with exquisite cinematography. A milestone in Japanese Cinema, this film will question your fundamental view of humanity, and offers a glimpse into a timeless world where survival overrules compassion, and the decisions of who shall live and die are born of starving necessity and animal instinct. In a small village in a remote valley, everyone who reaches the age of 70 is banished to the top of Mt. Narayama to die, so as not to be a burden on the village and bring disgrace upon their family. Old Orin is 69, and despite being in good health, in the coming winter it will be her turn to leave. But first, there are a few things that need doing. (From
Year Released
Running Time
130 minutes
Date Released
2008 DVD
Average: 5 (1 vote)


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Great film, but not for school age audiences

Field of Interest/Specialty: Japan
Posted On: 09/24/2009

This is an unforgettable film, but not suitable in its entirely for any but mature audiences due to explicit sexuality. The story of "abandoning old people" is one that goes back to ancient India, and students from China and Japan are sure to recognize it as well. There's little evidence that such practices existed, however, and the story is more often used as a moral to teach young people about respecting their elders. Imamura based his film on two stories by Fukasawa Shichiro. One, translated as "Song of Oak Mountain," is about the tradition of abandoning old people at the age of 70. The second story is untranslated, and deals with the problem of young, unmarried men in a remote village. Most of the sexual scenes and themes in the film come from this latter story, but Imamura also interweaves the sexual lives of not only humans, but animals and insects as well. As the blurb states, the cinematography for this film is extraordinary, and one gains an appreciation for the dog-eat-dog life of farmers in Edo Japan.