Sansho the Bailiff

(Sansho dayu)

BAMPFA Collection


Yoshiaki Hanayagi, Kyoko Kagawa, Kinuyo Tanaka, Eitaro Shindo,

In eleventh-century Japan, two children are kidnapped and sold into slavery while their mother, Tamiki, withers away on a distant island, dreaming only of being reunited with them. After many years the son assumes his rightful post as provincial governor and sets about deposing the cruel bailiff who brought tragedy upon his family. As in Greek tragedy, this film’s distanced determinism vies with the direct engagement of the characters to affect the richest form of drama, a purity of emotion. In Mizoguchi’s films, it has been noted, the long shot is as psychologically astute as the close-up. As Tamiki, Kinuyo Tanaka haunts; her presence is felt largely through her absence. Banished to an off-screen hell, she is nonetheless perceived, not as an apparition but as a feeling, like a voice carried by the wind.

Judy Bloch
  • Yoshikata Yoda
  • Fuji Yahiro
Based On
  • a story by Ogai Mori

  • Kazuo Miyagawa
  • Japanese
  • with English subtitles
Print Info
  • B&W
  • 35mm
  • 126 mins
  • Janus Films