Seisaku’s Wife (1965, Yasuzo Masumura)

Okane (Ayako Wakao, star of Red Angel) comes from a poor family, is the young bride of a gross old man. So she poisons him to death, claims her inheritance and returns to her mother’s village, where the people completely ostracize her. When her mother dies from illness, Okane agrees to watch her retarded cousin Heisuke, and they live in their rich, lonely house.

When golden boy Seisaku (Takahiro Tamura, murdered husband in Empire of Passion) returns to the village, he gets the opposite reaction – constant praise and a parade in his honor. He takes to ringing a bell every morning to awaken the whole town and inspire them to get to work. He enlists people to help with Okane’s mother’s burial, chastising them for being terrible to her. Inevitably the two get together, but brave Seisaku returns to war, and everyone goes back to being shitty towards Okane for the next six months.

Okane, hated:

Seisaku, loved:

Seisaku returns wounded, and as full of honor as ever, promising next time he’ll die for his country. The two are unofficially married, sleeping together but nobody in town (and certainly not Seisaku’s family) takes her seriously. He’s all she has, and life is horrible without him, so she pokes out his eyes with a giant nail as he prepares to leave again.

Okane with Heisuke:

Okane with nail:

She’s sentenced to two years, and since Japan doesn’t understand logic, the whole town hates Seisaku for dishonorably failing to return to war, figuring he was in on the plot with his wife – a woman none of them ever trusted. During that time, he understands how it feels to be an outcast, and after Okane returns, they go away together. “Without you I would have stayed a stupid role model soldier.” Good story, but I was sick of the hateful villagers and wished for a Carrie ending: punishment for all.

Written by Kaneto Shindo, who also made the great Onibaba and died a month ago at the age of 100.