Buried within the mountains and seascapes, rendered vibrant and alive through subtle dolly shots and long still takes, Mizoguchi breathes life into a deeply wounding and sorrowful tale that is, if nothing else, human.
Trapped behind the rudimentary walls of the bailiff's manor, it's apparent that freedom is the foundation for which the happiness we are all entitled rests. While watching Zushiô's and Anju's pursuit of this ideal, the viewer is struck with righteous indignation- abhorrence at inhumanity and fruitless suffering. Though the hierarchical manors and slave trade date the film to feudal Japan, the humanism Mizoguchi has put on display is trans-historical; truly immortal are the words of Masauji Taira, "without mercy, man is not a human being."
One of the greatest films I've ever seen, and a Japanese treasure I regard almost as fondly as Kurosawa's Ikiru; both masterpieces that manage to transcend cinematic narrative and speak directly to the soul of the world.