This is the film where she castrates him, they say, full of fear, whenever they talk about IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES. What is content, what unfolds as the history of a couple that love one another to death, bound together unto the very death that denies life to the couple acting it out. The prude find the film pornographic, while ascetics consider it indecent – to make the useful distinction in the way sexuality is perceived in the cinema, as proposed in the Dialectics of the Enlightenment (1947). Because this film breaks through the shame barrier upheld until now, it is subject to the verdict: forbidden – even after it has been legally passed. This time, the spectators pass judgment, and the verdict is: perversion.
The rooms the lovers move around in consist of paper walls and sliding doors. Any sense of depth seems to have been squeezed out of them. The walls, like the bodies themselves, become surfaces. Unlike in western films, the camera organises our perception not in accordance with a vertical order but a horizontal one. […] The music is not structured in blocks either. It doesn’t rise to a symphonic frenzy. The flute and the zither release their tones in undramatic movement.
IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES the boundaries are fluid. Here, every bodily movement aims at bringing about disintegration in the body of the other. Sada and Kichizo’s love is not unconditional. It is work against the fear of a corporeal emptiness that refuses to accept the passage of time. This emptiness can only be filled with a cock or destroyed with a knife.
Karsten Witte in: Frauen und Film, Nr. 17, September 1978
Japan / France 1975/76, 101 min