Double Suicide

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Double Suicide is a 1969 film about a doomed love between a paper merchant and a courtesan.

Directed by Masahiro Shinoda. Written by Tôru Takemitsu and Taeko Tomioka.


  • Koharu was a prostitute, and in that time the people wore very white make up, had very glamorous kimono, and I used a very high voice for her. With Osan, I contrasted that with the traditional blackening of the teeth for married women and shaving of the eyebrows and having a lower speaking tone in my voice. Koharu spoke much faster and Osan slower. But the director had told me that in the last scene that he wanted to give the impression it might have been the double suicide of the same woman. So that the two of them might have been the same woman. So toward the end, I tried to keep that in mind in thinking that Koharu's suicide might have been Osan's suicide as well. I tried to get that impression across.
  • Japanese traditional theatre of course has dialogue, beautiful dialogue, but it is all set in a musical tone of speaking. The words are very rhythmical and musical in traditional Japanese theatre, so that it is not something that imparts thought or ideas or even ideology. It doesn't have that kind of role and at times in the past I had quite a lot of antipathy toward that way of thinking. It is very hard to see the structure, how a Japanese theatre piece is constructed. In Double Suicide I wanted to bring out the black-dressed Kuroko to show how this piece of theatre is constructed, to expose that. So my great worry was that the Japanese theatre, with this musicality in its dialogue and its presentation, appealed to the emotions but it wasn't able to convey human philosophy or ideology. The writer of the Double Suicide was Monzaemon Chikamatsu, who was from a Samurai family. He wrote very, very definite and strict types of dialogue and he had a very good observation of different classes of Japanese society. I was impressed by that. I was very moved by the comment that he made (as long ago as the early seventeenth century) that the theater cannot be just showing reality. It must show some reality but it also must include fiction in order to be able to reach the audience. Truth lies in the very thin layer, a layer like skin, that lies between fiction and reality.


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