Ushpizin — Kurosawa (Religion[s] in Film)


Talk about cognitive dissonance. I finally got around the other night to seeing the Israeli movie Ushpizin, available to watch free at Youtube. My favorite shots are the sukkah interiors. And I like the shady characters who enter into its domain, disrupting and, it would seem, redeeming the life inside and around it. Nicely realized, but perhaps a little too cute, it’s a neat little movie about faith, doubt, circumstance, and miracle. The moral of the story is hasidic –there’s nothing but God. Quite the contrast is the scale of violence and ruin, the bloodied and burnt out architectural exteriors and interiors shot in Ran, Akira Kurosawa’s epic samurai take on King Lear, rendered into a Pure Land Buddhist parable about this veil of suffering. In this movie’s tragic worldview, matter is alien and fundamentally incorrigible, and the “visitors” are absolutely malevolent. One way or the other at the end of the day, structure comes down. In Ushpizin, the cinematic, architectural, and spiritual frames are banal and quotidian, maybe too much so, maybe not.


About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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