***½/**** Image A Sound B+ Extras A
starring Ken Ogata, Mayumi Ogawa, Mitsuko Baisho, Frankie Sakai
screenplay by Masaru Baba, based on the novel by Ryuzo Saki
directed by Shohei Imamura
by Walter Chaw It would be tempting to say that nature is appalled by all the terrible things Iwao Enokizu (Ken Ogata) does. Just after Enokizu hammers an old man to death in a garden and takes his stuff, Nature erupts in a windstorm--furious witness, it seems: a tempest as analogy for the rough gales driving the mysterious tides of this murderer's soul. Yet Shohei Imamura has something else entirely on his mind. Vengeance is Mine is about the fallacy of a moral universe. It's not that it believes there's no reason for atrocity; rather, it believes there's no definition for atrocity. Imamura is the spiritual brother of guys like Werner Herzog and Terrence Malick. The questions he asks aren't about ethics and morality, they're about all the ways that men lie to themselves about being bound by ethics and morality, only to transgress those boundaries they create, whether they be bans on religion, law, or philosophy. They're not evil. They can't help it. No one can.