Eiko Matsuda and Aoi Nakajima – In the Realm of the Senses92
Eiko Matsuda and Aoi Nakajima – In the Realm of the Senses
In the Realm of the Senses (French: L’Empire des sens, Japanese: 愛のコリーダ, Ai no Korīda, “Bullfight of Love”) is a 1976 erotic art film written and directed by Nagisa Ōshima. It is a fictionalised and sexually explicit treatment of a 1936 murder committed by Sada Abe. An international coproduction of France and Japan, the film generated great controversy at the time of its release. The film had the involvement of pink film luminary Kōji Wakamatsu as co-screenwriter and assistant producer. While intended for mainstream wide release, the film contains scenes of unsimulated sexual activity between the actors (Eiko Matsuda and Tatsuya Fuji, among others).
Strict censorship laws in Japan would not have allowed the film to be made according to Ōshima’s vision. This obstruction was bypassed by officially listing the production as a French enterprise, and the undeveloped footage was shipped to France for processing and editing. At its premiere in Japan, the film’s sexual activity was optically censored using reframing and blurring.
In the United States, the film was initially banned upon its premiere at the 1976 New York Film Festival but was later screened uncut, and a similar fate awaited the film when it was released in Germany. It was also banned because of a scene in which Kichi pushes an egg into Sada’s vulva, forcing her to push it out of her vagina before Kichi eats the egg. The film was not available on home video until 1990, although it was sometimes seen uncut in film clubs.
At the time, the only European country in which the film was banned was Belgium.The ban was lifted in 1994, and Belgium has not censored a film of any kind since.
At the time of its initial screening at the 1976 London Film Festival, the British Board of Film Censors recommended that it be shown under private cinema club conditions to avoid the need for heavy cuts, but only after the Obscene Publications Act had been extended to films in 1977 to avoid potential legal problems. The film opened at the Gate Cinema Club in 1978. It was given an official countrywide cinema release in 1991, though the video release was delayed until 2000 when it was passed with an “18” certificate (suitable for adults only). All of the adult sexual activity was left intact, but a shot in which Sada yanks the penis of a prepubescent boy after he misbehaves was reframed, zooming in so that only the reaction of the boy was shown. In Australia, the film was originally banned, but a censored version was made available in 1977. In 2000, it finally became available in its complete version. The graphic sexual content of the production also caused it to be banned in Israel in 1987.
The film is available in uncut form in France, Germany, the United States (as part of The Criterion Collection), the Netherlands, Belgium and several other territories.
In Canada, when originally submitted to the provincial film boards in the 1970s, the film was rejected in all jurisdictions except Quebec and British Columbia. It was not until 1991 that individual provinces approved the film and gave it a certificate. However, in the Maritimes, the film was rejected again as the policies followed in the 1970s were still enforced.
In Brazil, the film was banned during the military dictatorship due to its explicit sex scenes. The ban was lifted in 1980