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Film / Enjo

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Enjo, aka Conflagration, is a 1958 film from Japan directed by Kon Ichikawa.

Goichi is a nervous and introverted young man with a severe stammer. In 1944, after the death of his father, he arrives at the famous Shukaku Temple in Kyoto in order to become a Buddhist monk. Goichi's father, himself a monk and the master of a much smaller and shabbier temple, had always admired Shukaku, one of the great cultural treasures of Japan. Additionally, Goichi's father once studied with Tayama, the abbot of Shukaku. Goichi's self-centered mother, Aki, is for her part only too happy to get rid of her son.

Both Goichi and the temple survive World War II, Kyoto being pretty much the only Japanese city to escape American bombing. Goichi begins studying at the university in addition to his duties as a monk. However, things do not go well for Goichi. His hated mother shows up at Shukaku and gets a job as a maid. At school, he strikes up a friendship of sorts with Tokari (Tatsuya Nakadai), a bitter and cynical veteran who is a bad influence. He struggles with his studies. More disturbingly, he finds out that the monks at Shukaku are frauds. Far from being a Buddhist holy place, Shukaku is operated as a commercial tourist trap, both for Japanese visitors and for crass American soldiers. Worst of all, Tayama the abbot is a hypocrite, who keeps a mistress that he eventually impregnates.

Faced with all these psychological pressures, and heartbroken at seeing his beloved Shukaku turned into a cheap tourist spot and profaned by horny monks and geishas, Goichi has a breakdown. Eventually he makes a terrible decision.

Inspired by… a Real Life event in which a 22-year-old Buddhist monk burned down a famous old Kyoto temple, the Kinkaku-ji or "Temple of the Golden Pavilion" in 1950, which also inspired a novel to Yukio Mishima and an opera to the film's soundtrack's very composer, Toshiro Mayuzumi.


  • Convenient Miscarriage: It certainly is for the gross American soldier who thanks Goichi, after Goichi accidentally pushes the soldier's girlfriend down a flight of steps, causing her to miscarry.
  • Dirty Old Monk: Tayama has a geisha mistress that he impregnates, and keeps pinups of geisha girls. This is a major factor in pushing Goichi over the edge.
  • Downer Ending: Poor Goichi kills himself by jumping off a train.
  • Eagleland: Flavor 2 (negative). The crass American soldier tourists that visit the temple are a mild example. The awful American soldier who exults when his girlfriend miscarries is a stronger example.
  • The Film of the Book: Based on the novel The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukon Mishima.
  • Fire Purifies: The flashbacks-within-flashbacks demonstrate how Goichi's favorite memories of his father involve the two of them visiting Shukaku Temple, which his father extolled as a paragon of beauty and Buddhist holiness. Goichi himself cares deeply about the temple, to an excessive degree, like when he bars entry to the woman who's fleeing from an abusive American soldier. However what he finds there is a temple that is used as a tourist attraction for loud American servicemen, while the head monk whores around with a geisha and his underlings jockey for position. Other authority figures in his life, like his mother and his semi-friend Tokari, disappoint him. So he burns the temple down. Tayama admits they had it coming, muttering "It's Buddha's judgment" as he watches the fire.
  • Flashback: Essentially the whole film is a long flashback after the How We Got Here opening, but there are flashbacks within flashbacks, mostly dealing with Goichi's father and his tragic fate.
  • Geisha: Tayama regularly has sex with one, as well as keeping geisha pinup cards.
  • How We Got Here: The first scene is Goichi being interrogated after he was arrested for burning down the temple. The story unfolds from there.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Goichi's father has a tubercular cough. Although it's implied that his demise was hastened with Death by Despair after finding out his wife had an affair with his brother.
  • Parental Neglect: It couldn't be more obvious that Aki wants her son out of her hair.
  • Platonic Prostitution: Late in the film when his mental state is going downhill, Goichi visits a hooker in a brothel. All they do is talk for a while, with Goichi saying how lonely he is.
  • Reading Your Rights: "The right to remain silent was created by the new constitution."
  • Red Light District: Kyoto has one, with brothels and such, and Tayama meets his geisha there.
  • Stutter Stop: Goichi claims that he doesn't stammer when he reads Buddhist prayers. He also says he doesn't stammer when he reads English, and proves it by reading the months of the year off an English-language calendar.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Sleazy, cynical Tokari is not the best person for fragile Goichi to be hanging around with. He also loans money to Goichi and attempts to get a usurious interest rate.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Actually, Tokari's lame leg is quite real; he seems to have suffered an injury in the war. But he uses it to pick up girls. One time he pretends to fall, right in front of an attractive woman. Another time, when he's in his room with his girlfriend and Goichi, he cries out in pain from a cramp. As his girlfriend caresses the lame leg, Tokari looks at Goichi and winks.