Sword of Doom

February 18, 2011
past event image
Film past event

1966, 119 min., 35 mm, B&W, in Japanese with English subtitles.
Directed by Kihachi Okamoto. With Tatsuya Nakadai, Toshiro Mifune, Michiyo Aratama, Yuzo Kayama, Yoko Naito, Kei Sato, Ko Nishimura, Ichiro Nakatani, Tadao Nakamaru. Print courtesy of Janus Films.

"Okamoto’s dark masterpiece is a perfect balance of what makes the samurai subgenre so enjoyable: vicious killers (a truly evil protagonist played by Nakadai), psychological complexity and an action climax set to falling snow that’s still a stunner." Time Out New York

If you are in the mood for some samurai carnage and historical fiction at its finest: this is it. Sword of Doom is Kihachi Okamoto’s most celebrated film for more reasons than one. Starring Tatsuya Nakadai in a transfixing performance as a resplendent but ambiguous villain and the incomparable Toshiro Mifune in a brief but pivotal part, this cult classic follows the downward spiral of a skilled but tormented swordsman (Nakadai) who kills without regret, without mercy, and oftentimes, without purpose, during the turbulent final days of the shogunate rule (early 1860s).

The film opens with Nakadai running his sword through an old man who was actually praying for death but probably not expecting so prompt an answer. It is the first step on a long, twisted path of flagrant violations of all codes of honor. Naturally, more senseless slayings ensue until the much famed apocalyptic finale.

Pitch black, misanthropic and menacing, Sword of Doom is a highly stylized and complex depiction of evil, visceral and blessed with the barbaric splendor of the best samurai epics.

$12/$9 Japan Society members, students & seniors

This event is SOLD OUT.

Part of Zen & Its Opposite: Essential (& Turbulent) Japanese Art House

Each film illustrates one or several of the “Six Planes of Existence“—a Buddhist concept commonly referred to as “Six Paths” (Rokudō 六道 or Rokudō-rinne 六道輪廻) in Japan—within “the realm of Birth and Death” (Samsara).

Sword of Doom
The Realm of the Asuras:
Asura-gati in Sanskrit. Ashuradō (阿修羅道) in Japanese. The realm of anger, jealousy, and constant war; the Asura (Ashura) are demigods, semi-blessed beings; they are powerful, fierce and quarrelsome; like humans, they are partly good and partly evil.

Related Literature & Film Course:
Japanese Literature & Film:
From Samurai to the 21st Century

Saturday, February 12, 9 AM
Tuesday, February 22 — Saturday, February 26

  • Friday, February 18, 2011
  • 7:30 pm