Sticking on a similar theme to last week’s Blog, this week I have been looking at the Director of Dark Water, Hideo Nakata. He is most well-known for his directing of Ring (1998) Ring 2 (1999) and directing the American remake of his own film, The Ring Two (2005). Nakata has gained a sort of cult following by ‘J-Horror’ “Enthusiasts” with him being labelled “the Ring Master” in an interview with Off Screen in 2000 and “The Godfather of J-Horror” by the Japan Times earlier this year. Despite his fame, Nakata’s ‘Ring’ was by no means the beginning of Japanese Ghost and Horror Stories.
In his interview with Off Screen, the interviewer brings up the “older tradition of Japanese supernatural stories … Such as Kwaidan or Ugetsu”. Nakata replies, saying that he has studied them both along with an old Kabuki theatre production Yotsyua Kaiden.
I’ve come across the film Kwaidan (1964), literally translated to ‘Ghost Stories’ (Which, incidentally is the name of an anime series, which is totally worth its own study in cross cultural production of content and meaning), in previous weeks as I’ve been searching for influential and important Japanese horror films to watch. I’ve seen the trailer, and have downloaded a copy (tsk tsk) to watch this week. Doing more research on the film, I learnt that it was based on the writings of Koizumi Yakumo, who was also known as Lafcadio Hern. Hern was born in the Ionian islands of Greece in 1850 and emigrated to Ireland with his family in his early childhood. In 1869 Hern Travelled to America where he lived and worked as a writer until 1890 when he moved to Japan as a Newspaper Correspondent. His book ‘Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things’ is his English interpretation and recolouring of old Japanese stories from Japanese books “such as the Yaso-Kidan, Bukkyo-Hyakkwa-Zensho, Kokon-Chomonshu, Tama-Sudare, and Hyaku-Monogatari”, interestingly and strangely followed by a semi-scientific and definitely philosophical study of Insects.
After reading his story “THE DREAM OF AKINOSUKE“(of Chinese origin), his study of insects has become more clear. The story uses a butterfly and an ant as metaphors. The three drunken characters in the story discuss how what these insects might mean in relation to the dream that Akinosuke has in the story. Herns discussion of insects at the end of his book seems to be a study of their potential meaning in Asian literature.
Right… so that didn’t exactly focus on the role of celebrity, but more a flow of research for the week. I’m looking forward to reading more of Herns stories and deliberations on insects when I have time, and seeing if any of these themes or ideas, flow through to modern day Asian horror films.