Death of the Image/The Image of Death: Temporality , Torture and Transience in Yuuri Sunohara and Masami Akita's Harakiri Cycle

Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema 3 (1):163-177 (2011)
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Sunohara Yuuri and Akita Masami’s series of six seppuku films (1990) are solely constituted by images of fictionalized death, revolving around the prolonged self-torture of a lone figure committing harakiri. I contend that the protagonist’s auto-immolation mirrors a formal death, each frame ‘killing’ the moment it represents. My analysis aims to explore how the solipsistic nature of selfhood is appositely symbolized by the isolation of the on-screen figures and the insistence with which the six films repeat the same scenario of protracted agony across the cycle. The centralization of suffering, I argue, parallels the distance between viewer and image with the isolating nature of embodied existence. Thus, this article seeks to probe the relationship between form and content, asking what the image of death reveals about the death of the image.

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Steve Jones
University of Northumbria at Newcastle


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