World soundtrack awards
Death by Hanging
Archived: Death by Hanging - Kôshikei (1968)

director: Nagisa Ôshima

composer: Hikaru Hayashi
With: Kei Satô, Fumio Watanabe, Hôsei Komatsu, a.o.

duration: 117 minutes
Comedy, Drama

Film Fest Gent - Death by Hanging

A documentary-like opening introduces a death chamber where an execution is about to take place. Inexplicably, the man to be executed, an ethnic Korean known only as R, survives hanging but loses his memory. The officials who witness the hanging debate how to proceed, as the law could be interpreted as forbidding execution of an individual who does not recognize their crime and its punishment. They decide that they must persuade R to accept guilt by reminding him of his crimes - at this point the film moves into a highly theatricalized film-within-a-film structure.

In scenes of absurd and perverse humor, the officials recreate R's first crime, the rape of a young woman. This failing, they attempt to recreate his childhood by way of performing crude racist stereotypes of Koreans held by some Japanese. Exasperated, they resort to visiting the scene of R's other crime at an abandoned high school, but in an overzealous moment of reenactment, an official murders a girl. Back in the death chamber, a woman claiming to be R's "sister" appears one by one to the officials. She tries to convince R that his crimes are justified by Korean nationalism against a Japanese enemy, but after failing to win him over, is herself hanged. At a drinking party to celebrate her hanging, the officials reveal their guilt-ridden, violent pasts, oblivious to R and his "sister" lying on the floor amongst them, themselves exploring R's psyche. The prosecutor invites R to leave a free man, but when he opens the door, he is driven back by an intense burst of light from outside, symbolizing the fact that as a Korean he will never be accepted by Japanese society. Finally, R admits to the crimes, but proclaims himself innocent - stating that if the officers execute him, then they are murderers as well. In his second hanging, R's body disappears, leaving an empty noose hanging beneath the gallows.

"Probably the most powerful film against capital punishment ever made." (Pacific Film Archive) "For three quarters of its lenght, 'Death by Hanging' can be read as a brilliantly, insolently witty Brechtian parable." (Monthly Film Bulletin)


director: Nagisa Ôshima
composer: Hikaru Hayashi
producer: Nagisa Ôshima
screenplay: Michinori Fukao, Mamoru Sasaki, Tsutomu Tamura, Nagisa Ôshima
Editor: Sueko Shiraishi
Cinematography: Yasuhiro Yoshioka

production company: Oshima Productions

More info

dialogue: Japanese
subtitles: Fr subt.
country: Japan
year: 1968


NAGISA ÔSHIMA (1932-2013): Tomorrow's Sun (1959, short), A Town of Love and Hope (1959), Naked Youth (1960), The Sun's Burial (1960), Night and Fog in Japan (1960), The Catch (1961), Shiro Amakusa, the Christian Rebel (1962), Pleasures of the Flesh (1965), Diary of Yunbogi (1965, short), Violence at Noon (1966), Band of Ninja (1967), Sing a Song of Sex (1967), Japanes Summer: Double Suicide (1967), Three Resurrected Drunkards (1968), Death by Hanging (1968), Boy (1969),… Show more

Technical Specs

format: DCP

Other festival films by director Nagisa Ôshima

2016:L'Empire des sens
2016:Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence
2016:The Ceremony
1997:L'Empire des sens
1979:Empire of Passion
1974:The Ceremony


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