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Film / Deep River

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Deep River (Fukai kawa) is a 1995 film from Japan, directed by Ken Kumai.

It is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō. Three Japanese tourists are among a Japanese tour group in India, headed for the River Ganges and the holy city of Varanasi.

  • Mitsuko was, in her college days, something of a hell-raiser. She seduced a devout Christian fellow student, Otsu, just for the challenge of it, only to cruelly dump him once she got him to abandon his Christian piety and have sex with her. Some years pass and Mitsuko, who in the meantime has gotten married and divorced, looks up Otsu in France, where he has become a Catholic priest. They part amicably and Mitsuko heads for India, looking for some sort of spiritual catharsis—only to find that Otsu has gone there too.
  • Isobe is an office worker (or in Japanese parlance a "salaryman"). A few years ago his beloved wife died of cancer. Before her death, she swore to him that she would be reincarnated, and made him promise to look her up. He is doing so, and has come to India on a report of a little girl who was born soon after his wife died, who says she has memories of a past life.
  • Kiguchi is an older man, a veteran of World War II and specifically Japan's war in eastern India. The horrors he saw as the starving, disease-ridden Japanese army retreated still haunt him. Specifically, Kiguchi is deeply troubled by a secret that his old army buddy Tsukada told him, shortly before Tsukada died of alcoholism.

Toshiro Mifune appears in a couple of flashback scenes as Tsukada. It was his last film role.


  • Abandoned Area: The opening credits play over shots of the weed-choked ruins of a temple. It's later revealed to be the temple where Lord Buddha is said to have given his first sermon after his enlightenment.
  • The Alcoholic: Kiguchi is told that his old friend Tsukada is drinking himself to death—because he's ridden with guilt over having consumed the flesh of Capt. Minagawa during the war.
  • As You Know: When Kiguchi tells Tsukada the whole story, which Tsukada already knows, about how Tsukada pulled Kiguchi out when the latter was about to drown in the mud, and later how Tsukada killed a lizard and tried to feed Kiguchi with the meat.
  • Disturbed Doves: A bunch of pigeons get disturbed and fly off when Otsu takes his fatal tumble down the stone steps.
  • Driven to Suicide: Capt. Minagawa, no longer able to cope with the blood and starvation and horror as his unit retreats, killed himself back in 1945 by detonating a grenade.
  • Flashback: The back stories of all three main characters are told through extensive flashbacks.
  • Flashback Within a Flashback: Kiguchi's flashback to World War II shows his old CO, Captain Minagawa, looking at pictures of his family. Within that, there's a brief flashback of Minagawa's, where he's having fun with his wife and child in happier pre-war days.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Back in the war as the disease-ridden, starving Japanese soldiers were retreating, Tsukada killed a lizard, ate some of the meat, and fed some more to Kiguchi. Fifty years later, Kiguchi is horrified to find out that it wasn't lizard meat, it was chunks of Capt. Minagawa, after Minagawa killed himself by detonating a grenade.
  • Inner Monologue: Several times. Early in the film young Mitsuko goes into a church and, in an inner monologue, addresses God directly and says "you're powerless", after she took Otsu away from him.
  • Jizzed in My Pants: Otsu gets so revved up for sex with Mitsuko that he climaxes while they're still rolling around on a couch fully clothed. She cackles with laughter and says "Go take a shower." (Actual sex in the shower follows.)
  • Left Hanging: While Mitsuko's and Kiguchi's stories both more or less end, Isobe's doesn't. Will he continue his desperate search for his reincarnated wife? The film doesn't tell.
  • Monochrome Past: Kiguchi's WWII flashback scenes are shown in black and white. (This may be because the combat scenes appear to be Stock Footage from a different movie.)
  • No Name Given: Isobe's wife is never named.
  • Seasonal Baggage: A shot of leaves on a tree in spring, outside of Isobe's wife's sick room, cuts to a shot of those same leaves in fall. This is how the film shows that the "2-4 months" that the doctor gave as her time left are up.
  • Shower of Love: Where Otsu and Mitsuko actually consummate their relationship, after the Jizzed in My Pants mishap.
  • Sky Face: Technically it's the Ganges River, not the sky. But the trope plays out the same way, as Isobe has a vision of his wife, who tells him that she will reincarnate and he should keep looking.
  • Staircase Tumble: Otsu chases after another member of the tour group, an obnoxious photographer who takes photos of the cremations by the riverside despite being strictly instructed not to. Otsu trips on some stone steps, falls, and eventually dies.
  • Title Drop: Delivered near the end by Mitsuko, after she has ritually cleansed and redeem herself by dipping herself in the Ganges. She comes to believe that the river is representative of humanity, in all of its suffering.
    Mitsuko: What I can believe in now is the sight of all these people, each carrying his or her individual burdens, praying at this deep river.
  • Wet Sari Scene: Mitsuko dousing herself in the Ganges River is portrayed as a moment of emotional cleansing and spiritual redemption, but it's also shapely Mitsuko wearing a sari soaked to her skin.