In the Realm of the Senses 16

In the Realm of the Senses

(Ai no korîda)

Nagisa Oshima

  • 1976
  • Japan
  • Drama / Erotic
  • 1h51mn
  • Original version with French subtitles
  • Color
In 1936, in Japan, an insane story of passionate sexual love between Sada Abe the servant and her master Kichizo.
In the Realm of the Senses is maybe to cinema what The Origin of the World is to painting: a work of art that marks a transition in the graphic representation of the body and eroticism, to the point where one can say that there’s a before and an after In the Realm of the Senses. The permanent marriage of rawness and beauty conjures the feeling that the essence of carnal moments and orgasm are perfectly captured. This alchemy, this magic formula, remains Oshima’s secret. Furthermore, through a man’s sacrifice for his loved one, this is one of the rare stories where feminine desire comes out victorious, in this quintessence of selflessness and love.

Cosey Fanni Tutti

IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES (Original title: Ai no korîda) was released when I was working in the sex industry in the 1970s. I was embroiled in the London porn world and the sex magazines featuring me were banned from being exhibited, judged as pornographic. So when word about Oshima’s film got out I was eager to see it. Oshima had managed to make a porn film despite the restrictive anti-obscenity laws in Japan and the UK by using facilities in France where those laws had just been abolished. He seemed to be making a stand against censorship and oppression and exploring sexuality. These were all things I was into at the time. On release Oshima’s film was instantly notorious and caused huge controversy. In the UK hardcore pornography was forbidden and went underground so the only opportunities to see such films (or buy hardcore magazines) was through private purchases or rare discreet independent screenings. What’s unique about Oshima’s film is that unlike the usual porn films this was not fantasy but was actually based on a true story from Japan in 1936. That of a waitress Sada Abe, a former prostitute who entered a relationship with her employer Kichizo. It was entirely centred on desire and sex, which quickly became all consuming, possessive, obsessive and dangerously extreme as they sought to further heighten their sexual pleasures. Ultimately it ended in premeditated murder when Sada strangled Kichizo during sex, then cut off his penis and testicles to carry with her. In her mind it was an act of love but also ensured no one else could have him. Eiko Matsuda (Sada) and Tatsuya Fuji (Kichizo) give incredible performances. They draw you into their world of hyper sensuality and sexuality. The authentic sex scenes are beautifully and exquisitely filmed. Overall it’s a dark film, even playful moments have an unsettling undertone. Sada demands sex so often she exhausts Kichizo who is devoted to satisfying her the best he can to the point of ultimately sacrificing himself. While making love he says to Sada that he feels ‘inside her’. He’s not referring to mere penetration, but to their transcendent union. Oshima’s film was groundbreaking, taking to another level both the quality and the portrayal of extreme sexual activities, and power and control in relationships.


12/09 • 21h45 • Screen 300
Screening presented by Cosey Fanni Tutti



  • With : Eiko Matsuda, Tatsuya Fuji, Aoi Nakajima, Yasuko Matsui...
  • Screenplay : Nagisa Oshima
  • Photography : Hideo Ito
  • Editing : Keiichi Uraoka
  • Music by : Minoru Miki
  • Production : Anatole Dauman