1962, Movies

Otoshiana aka おとし穴 (1962, Hiroshi Teshigahara)

This Japanese film opens with some of the most extreme scoring I think I’ve ever heard in a film. In the opening shots, as the man flees, there is only this piercing, low music, almost seemingly intended to sound like a dog’s bark. And then it drops away for the title card which features aggressively avant garde atonality. It’s a crazy start to this film.


This film plunges you right into the action and pulls a Psycho before you can believe it. It initially has the vibe of a thriller or a horror movie, both with how quickly the man is running for his livelihood (and soon his life) and with the aggressive score. It’s an audacious beginning that gives no idea of what is to come.

And that’s because it gets really strange after that: imagine if Drew Barrymore, after she’s killed in Scream, continues to be on screen both as a ghost and as an unrelated identical twin who was a major part of the cast (not necessarily Campbell’s character). Now imagine that, due to a misunderstanding, that other character of hers died again. That gives you only the faintest idea of how unconventional this movie is after its already unconventional opening.

The majority of the film takes place in a mining colony, with both an abandoned camp and a camp in use, as well as at least two pits. So the setting is obviously very different than the films I’ve mentioned, though I cannot think of other films that are as similar to this opening. But once the first murder happens, it’s a very different film. It’s part weird ghost story, part newspaper movie, part tragedy of misunderstanding. (The misunderstanding is part of the allegory.) It’s really unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. But I’m not sure how successful it is overall.

I often pro rate films (and music) due to when they were released. I think to have done something before others, or do something earlier in the history of a medium, has value. I’m not sure how well all these different types of films sit together. I suspect if I watched it again, I might have more nitpicks. But I do think a film this unique and this distinct, which is a debut, in the 1960s, deserves a lot of credit. It’s a movie that refuses to be categorized by genre and its bizarre narrative shifts are arguably essential to its allegory about the Japanese mining industry’s treatment of workers. Perhaps it’s because of its unconventionality, even if that’s a little awkward, that it stands out, that it’s worth watching.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.