“Art is often the subject of philosophy,” (Katilin Balong, NYTimes). “Odd Obsession” directed by Ichikawa Kon, based off the book “The Key” by Tanizaki Junichirō . is set in 1959 Japan, delivers such a message of art representing philosophy by following two main protagonists Ikuko and Kenji as they each try to manipulate the other to get what they want. It allows for the audience to understand the manipulation and motivations for their actions through a third person omniscient lens. Even though the book being adapted to film is diary-entry based, the movie still executes the wants and needs of the characters well by keeping things secretive and under the radar for the characters.
Written and directed by Japanese director Ichikawa Kon, “Odd Obsession” was entered into the 1960 Cannes Film Festival and won the Jury Prize. It follows the life of Ikuko and Kenji, a married couple, with the husband wanting more out of the sexual lifestyle of the couple and thinks it will help in other areas of the marriage as well. The film allows for the audience to experience the thought processes of the characters, with not too much voice over to give away the actual thoughts, and follow the actions and how it leads to various consequences. It’s also shows how genuine people would react to certain problems directed their way, so creates a very realistic nature to the overall film.
The director creates shadowy shots and precise placement of characters in the scene to allow for the overall manipulation motif to be felt and seen while people are interacting, whether it pertains to a particular scene or not; as it becomes an overall feel for the movie no matter if there is someone at play at the moment or plotting behind the scenes. Ichikawa, by using close up and fixed camera angles, to emphasize the dramatic nature and skewing of morals throughout the movie. It makes it so the audience feels we are secretly walking in on something we shouldn’t be seeing. Using immersion to create this private viewing of a personal business of other individuals makes it so we feel we have to keep a secret as well and helps us also figure out who we are rooting for to overcome the obstacles put up by the other partner in the relationship. The darkened rooms could also be do to how the movie was shot in black and white so the blacks and the whites deeply contrast each other in every scene. By engaging the audience exclusively through these various schemes of the Kenmochi couple, it allows for us to question ourselves to see what we would do in a situation such as this and also feel the pain and the consequences that befall on the characters as they keep outdoing the other with reacting to situations.
The movie’s central theme is the morality of Ikuko and Kenji’s actions and how they ultimately feel in the end about manipulating each other. As the audience is following the scenes unfold and the metaphorical holes being dug as Ikuko and Kenji continue to lie to each other leads the audience astray from who is manipulating who – and in turn – how the director is manipulating us. Later on, Ikuko starts to have second thoughts about fooling around on the side with a man named Kimura, but also finds herself falling more in love with him than her husband. From this moment, the choices that Ikuko makes in regards to how Kenji manipulates her becomes more secretive and there becomes an obvious sense of struggle she battles as she continues playing the game her husband started. Though we don’t see much of the relationship before the manipulation of both parties of the Kenmochi relationship begin, maybe there was a more real connection when they first began and it might her something that Ikuko wants to get back to. What matters, to audience at least and maybe not as much to Ikuko, is that she is thinking more openly and seriously about if what she is doing is right and how she really feels for her husband.
Overall, Ishikawa creates a very condensed world through only following one couple throughout and seeing how a relationship can get very convoluted and twisted up in lies that the relationship under all the deceit is almost forgotten, as Ikuko and Kenji have a hard time reaching a final destination towards the end of the movie as it ends abruptly with a large death scene. Despite this abrupt ending, the entire movie should be appreciated for it’s intuitive nature in allowing the audience to see behind the eyes of the actors and understand the interior motives of the Kenmochi couple as they strive to battle for a sense of victory and pleasure in their lives and with each other.