Empire of Passion | Japan / France | 1978 | Directed by Nagisa Oshima
Also known as Phantom Love, the French/Japanese co-production Empire of Passion
follows famed Japanese director Nagisa Oshima's multinational production, the chilling
and erotic In the Realm of the Senses, which was banned in several countries and was
disqualified from appearing at the Cannes Film Festival. This straightforward Japanese
murder-mystery and ghost story, unlike that previous movie, does not focus on eroticism
but concerns the aftermath of passion and the fruits of crime. In the story, based on
an 1895 incident in rural Japan, Seki (Kazuko Yoshiyuki), a beautiful peasant woman, and
her young lover Toyoji (Tatsuya Fuji), conspire to murder her husband when their erotic
games get out of hand. After getting the husband drunk, the two lovers kill him and throw
his body down an abandoned well, claiming that he has gone to do business in Tokyo. In
order to avoid suspicion, the two only see each other seldom. In the meantime, Seki
begins seeing visions of her husband, and her grown stepdaughter has dreams of him.
Guilt consumes both of them, and their nemesis, in the form of a bumbling police
inspector sent to investigate an unrelated murder, pursues them.