Movie Mirrors Index

Gate of Hell (Jigokumon)

(Japanese 1953 c 86')

En: 6 Ed: 6

Based on Kan Kikuchi’s play, a samurai helps a woman act as a decoy to save the royal family during a rebellion. As his reward he asks to marry her but learns that she is married.

         Eight centuries ago during the Heiji Revolt the Imperial Sanctuary is threatened while Kiyomori is away. Lady Kesa (Machiko Kyo) volunteers to be a decoy in the carriage of the Empress. While men are fighting, the carriage leaves. Moritoh Enda (Kazuo Hasegawa) carries her to his house. He fights a rebel, but his brother Rokuroh (Kotaro Bando) intervenes. Moritoh says why he did not join his brother and the rebels. He says he will go to Kiyomori.

         Moritoh tells Kiyomori (Koreya Senda) what happened and that he is needed. Moritoh duels and kills a man.

         Kiyomori came back to Kyoto and defeated the rebels. Rokuroh was killed at the gate. Kesa introduces her aunt Sawa (Kikue Mori) to Moritoh, who invites them to stay; but they return to the Palace. Kiyomori gives men places to govern as rewards and tells Moritoh he can have whatever he asks. Moritoh asks to marry Kesa, but she is married to Wataru Watanabe. Moritoh says he still wants her.

         Kesa hears about it and talks to Wataru (Isao Yamagata), who tells her not to worry. She is summoned by Kiyomori and plays music for him. Kiyomori tells Moritoh he has one chance. Moritoh stops Kesa’s playing and says he wants her. She is called away. Wataru learns that Moritoh has entered a race against him. Kesa tells Wataru that she rejected Moritoh. In the moonlight Wataru tells Kesa he will protect her.

         At the horse races Moritoh sees Kesa. Moritoh wins the race. Men drink and say that Wataru did not use the whip. Moritoh wants to race again, but Wataru tells him to leave. A servant tells Kesa that Moritoh is waiting to see her. He is told that she is at her aunt’s.

         Moritoh goes to Sawa, who says Kesa is not there. Moritoh tells her to get Kesa by saying she is ill. Kesa is told that her aunt is ill and goes to Sawa at night. Moritoh dismisses Sawa and tells Kesa he must have her. He threatens to kill Wataru and Sawa, and Kesa submits. Moritoh orders Sawa to stay inside and tells Kesa to turn out the light to avoid a massacre.

         Kesa goes back to Wataru and says she is frightened that someone is in the bedroom. She plays music and tells Wataru to sleep there. He does so, and she moves slowly. Moritoh sees the light go out and sneaks in. He kills Kesa in Wataru’s place and asks her to forgive him. Moritoh looks for Wataru and tells him to behead him because he killed Kesa. Wataru runs and finds Kesa dead. He wishes she had trusted him. Moritoh sits outside and expects Wataru to kill him, but Wataru declines. Moritoh says he will become a monk.

         This medieval drama portrays how a samurai with a single goal concentrates all his will on that objective and uses violence without a qualm. The Lady has a noble code also and sacrifices her life rather than have her husband killed and herself dishonored.

Copyright © 2009 by Sanderson Beck

Movie Mirrors Index

BECK index