Nanatsu no umi: Zempen Shojo-Hen / Seven Seas: Virginity Chapter (1931)

4 01 2015

Ambitious projects such as the Seven Seas one would not be the norm for Hiroshi Shimizu, at least for what survives from him. The peaceful, quiet, but equally heartbreaking phenomena that occurs in his best films (Mr. Thank You and Ornamental Hairpin, to name just two) is boisterous and tragic. At least, that is the case for this film, the first entry in the two-part series. The technical bravado that runs through all of his work is present, yet it seems to take on a completely new meaning in the context of a film that is more dramatic on the surface (which comes from its literary origins, surely) yet demonstrates something very specific and unique about Shimizu’s abilities as a filmmaker.

1

Yumie is a working class girl engaged to Yuzuru. She gets invited to a party put on by her fiance’s parents, but she initially ignores the request. She’s busy, and has better things to do. She submits to the family’s pressure, though and at the party she meets international playboy Takehiko. Takehiko falls hopelessly in love with Yumie, at least that is how he explains his possessive behavior around her. Yumie quickly feels uncomfortable and leaves, but the next day, he proudly declares his love for her, which makes her visibly but she tries to console him. Playing off of her good will, Takehiko is able to take advantage of Yumie. The repercussions of his act begin to disintegrate what was once a promising family.

2

With this first part of the series being titled “Virginity Chapter” it is tempting to assume that the main dramatic conflict revolves around it. While Yumie’s chastity does play a part in the drama, the reality is less her “indiscretion” (and it seems problematic to call it that) and rather the responses of those around her. Her father is heartbroken, to the point that he feels validated in violently tossing her away when she crawls to him crying for help. Yumie has not “slipped” but rather has been pressured, with Takehiko’s threats of violence, into sexual activity. Despite some characters’ insisting that Yumie is at fault, she has become a victim of sexual violence. As is the case even today, her experience, her very own pain is the thing used to denigrate her.

3

The “Virginity Chapter” ends with the suggestion that Yumie will accept the potential nightmare of becoming Takehiko’s wife. She acknowledges the pain, but her face suggests a potential scheme. She might not have an elaborate plan for revenge, but as Takehiko’s object (and I think it’s important to use the word object here, as Takehiko clearly doesn’t care about her as a person) of desire, she suddenly has some control. To be anything short of the unreasonable expectations would frustrate him, let alone openly defying his orders. Her tragedy has given her the opportunity to be in control. It’s a revolutionary thought, though one can criticize this for providing a dramatic shift that absolves Yumie of her past trauma. If this all sounds like a little too much for a Shimizu film, it’s important to remember this pain and this violence was always lurking in the corners of his protagonists’ past.

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