A Hen in the Wind, dir. by Yasujiro Ozu

If you’re old enough, you may remember a Hollywood film called Indecent Proposal, starring Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson as two fairly well-off middle-class Americans whose marriage is ruined by millionaire Robert Redford offering them a million dollars to sleep for one night with Ms Moore. As I recall, the whole of Western civilisation at the time was transfixed by this remarkable moral dilemma, and talked of nothing but what their own response would be.

Ozu’s A Hen in the Wind (1949) takes this same basic plot but transposes it to immediate post-War Japan, a time in which people were struggling to scrape together enough money to remain alive. There is no millionaire Robert Redford; merely a mother who is forced into selling her body (they call it prostitution in the film) in order to raise enough money to pay for her young son’s medical bills.

As a complacent Westerner who has no real concerns or issues in his life, I found it difficult to relate to these poor people and their problems. The so-called moral dilemma at the heart of the film seemed to me nothing of the kind: their child was going to die if he did not get proper medication and the wife was forced into prostitution on this account; the husband ended up quite reasonably forgiving her. If they had been reasonably well-off financially or at least had a supportive social network or could expect some sort of state intervention, and she’d undertaken prostitution merely to better her place in society, then I might have been able to identify with her better. Who, after all, is more likely to be moved by the death of a child than the opportunity to win a million dollars?

Otherwise the film is a typical Ozu piece, whose basic stereotype is this: two people, sitting in opposite corners of a room with their backs to one another, crying, and feeling unable sufficiently to explain their feelings to one another.


2 thoughts on “A Hen in the Wind, dir. by Yasujiro Ozu

  1. Hmm, in retrospect, my review was possibly quite difficult to interpret. In fact, I’m not even sure it qualifies as a review at all.

    Actually, the film was quite good – I gave it a 5 (and the Ozu I watched last night – An Autumn Afternoon – a 7). In general – as per my last comment – Ozu’s a little too Japanese for me – a little too much repressed emotion and stories about not much – similar to why I don’t really like that much c20th Japanese literature (and indeed recent English literature, which seems to have succumbed to the same template, at least when it’s not a light harmless comedy).

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