Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Ceremony (1971)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Ceremony (1971, Jp.) (aka Gashiki)

In co-writer/director Nagisa Oshima's non-linear, satirical and serious coming-of-age drama (with a series of flashbacks) - using pivotal but empty ritualistic anniversaries and ceremonies (not just one) as key family moments ("Relatives who do not see each other except on weddings or funerals") - and as significant years in the 25 year post-war history of Japan:

  • the story's main narrative: a family obligation involving the long trip of the main protagonist Masuo Sakurada (Kenzo Kawarasaki) (literally "Man of Manchuria") and his beloved cousin Ritsuko (Atsuko Kaku) to an island off Kyushu, after receiving a cryptic telegram from a mutual cousin and Masuo's romantic rival, Terumichi (Atsuo Nakamura) - had he died or not?
  • the recurrent image of Masuo - as a young boy - ritualistically straining to hear his younger dead brother's cries from under the ground, as he held his ear to the earth - henceforth, Masuo was compelled to live for two sons
  • the incestual love scene between 20 year old Masuo to Ritsuko's mother Setsuko (Akiko Koyama), his "first love," who helped him lose his virginity and taught him about sex (it was part of Masuo's 'lesson' allowed by his domineering, black-robed grandfather Kazuomi (Satô Kei)); when Masuo asked Setsuko to instruct him: "Be my first teacher," she placed his hand on her breast and told him to kiss her: "My lips, my breast too. Now the other one. No, don't hurry, stay calm" before the camera slowly pulled away
Masuo's Sexual Initiation by Setsuko:
"Be my first teacher"
  • the title's unforgettable wedding ceremony of the oppressive, incestual and dysfunctional Japanese Sakurada clan, when Masuo - to keep up the traditions of his family and to save face (and at the insistence of his grandfather Kazuomi because he was the only legitimate Sakurada heir or descendant) attended his own arranged wedding without his bride present; Kazuomi announced: "The ceremony will take place as planned" since all important members of the families were present - except the bride!; the farcical and "miserable" ceremony was held after the father of the bride allegedly claimed that she was suffering from recurring problems of appendicitis, although it was asked of him: "Isn't the bride just shirking?"; during the hypocritical ceremony, Masuo posed next to a vacant chair and also at the head table
The Wedding Ceremony - Without the Bride
  • the mocking post-wedding sequence of Masuo's re-enactment of his honeymoon, when he pretended to deflower his pure Japanese bride ("a perfect and pure Japanese girl") by using a pillow wrapped in his grandmother's coat and caressing her, telling her: "Calm, peaceful, without fear. Be natural and let me do it...Real, perfect and purely Japanese, her breasts, her beautiful nipples, they are mine...Finally we are alone, just to two of us. There's nothing to be ashamed of. I love you. Relax your legs...Pure and perfect Japanese. my body is yours and your body is mine"; when his grandfather strenuously objected, Masuo wrestled him and tossed him to the ground and continued his seduction on him until the old man freed himself and stormed out
  • the concluding sequence on Kyushu - where Masuo and his cousin Ritsuko found the naked deceased corpse of her deceased cousin and lover Terumichi; she read his last will: "I am the only one who can continue the Sakurada line. By killing myself now, I destroy the Sakurada family"; although Masuo protested and called her a "Fool!", she vowed to commit suicide; she bound her legs and wrists with two handkerchiefs, took a deadly pill, and laid down next to Terumichi; Masuo stumbled from the cabin to the seaside, fell on the rocky shore, and wept
  • the final flashback - Masuo recalled a childhood memory - he pretended that he had thrown a baseball strike while playing with his cousins and Setsuko - all deceased
  • the film ended with the adult Masuo putting his ear to the ground as he had done as a youth, to listen for his dead ancestors

Ritsuko and Masuo

Masuo as Young Boy

The Mock Post-Wedding Honeymoon

Double Suicide of Ritsuko and Terumichi


Listening for Dead Ancestors


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