Kwaidan: A Different Type of Horror (Part III)

Please refer to my other posts for complete film analysis : Part I and Part II.

The last story in this film is In a Cup of Tea. This is the shortest story and my least favorite. I wonder why they put this story in the last section of the film. The ending of this story is as unfinished as the actual ending of the film. Did I confuse you yet? Keep reading.

In the year 1900 Meji era, a writer mysteriously left his book unfinished. The narrator in the film attempted to explain what happened. Around New Year, Lord Sado Nakagawa visited the area and stopped at the temple with his entourage at a temple in Hongo. Kannai one of the traveling men became thirsty and went to get a cup of water, but soon an apparition appeared in the water, smiling at him. He tossed the water out, but the reflection of a strange man kept appearing when he scooped a new cup of water. Irritated, he drank the water.

Later that evening, the strange man in the cup of water appeared in the manor in human form. He called himself, Heinai Shikibu. Frightened by the appearance, Kannai claimed to never have seen him, when asked if he recognized the mysterious man. Heinai Shikibu got upset when Kannai threw the water on the ground earlier that morning at the temple. Kannai reached his sword and attacked Heinai Shikibu. And then, the “wounded mysterious man” disappeared behind the wall. No one believed him when he said there was an intruder entering the manor.

The next following night, three visitors came to visit Kannai. They claimed to be Heinai Shikibu’s retainer. The visitors said Heinai Shikibu will come back on the 16th of the month to get his revenge. Kannai became angry and started to swing his sword at the visitors. Those ghostly visitors could not be killed because they were not real. Kannai turned into a madman, laughing hysterically because he could not defeat them.

Then the scene went back to the writer, who left his book unfinished. The publisher came to check on the writer as the deadline was approaching. It appeared that the writer suffered from writer’s block and could not come up with a satisfying ending “to a story about a man who swallowed another’s soul.” So he left it for the publisher to come up with an ending. The ending of the film showed the writer inside a big water vase.

I personally think this story is confusing no matter how many times I watched it. Perhaps, there are cultural references and lore that I’m not well aware of. However, if the author intended to make his audience confused, he succeeded because I wouldn’t know how to finish the story if it were given to me. But it’s sure a haunting tale even though it’s not scary. I still enjoyed the camera shots and the overall production.

In summary, I enjoyed watching Kwaidan. It’s relaxing and beautiful to watch. I have always liked older films and good horror stories. It does something to my soul. It heals it just like having a cup of tea.

Note Originally posted:
November 10, 2019 3:23 am

Kwaidan: A Different Type of Horror (Part I)

What does it mean to be haunted? Does haunting consist of ghosts and terror? Is haunting like a whiff of cigarette smoke lingering in the air which won’t subside, or it is like an ancient ruin that once stood proudly in splendor only to be left abandoned and rotten in time? This is the feeling I get from watching this film. It’s a film comprised of four haunting stories.

The first story is called Black Hair. It’s a tale about a man who abandoned poverty to gain higher social status at the expense of leaving his soft-spoken, docile wife. Like most ambitious men, the husband desired status and wealth. Unfortunately, when he did achieve his ambition by marrying a woman belonging to a higher social status than his former wife, he realized that the grass was not always greener on the other side. His new wife was cold and selfish. As time progressed, he started to yearn for his former wife and remembered innocently how she spoke to him. When he decided to return to her. She was no longer there but a past memory. In the end, his unwise decision to abandon his former wife indirectly killed her by leaving her to die in poverty alone. What’s the irony in that? We seek fortune only to fall out of a fortune. All of these points mentioned were done with few words. There was not a lot of talking. Each frame illustrated these points so hauntingly beautiful that I just had to summarize the story myself in words to captivate its essence.

In contrast to Black Hair, The Woman of the Snow is a tale about a woman’s temperament. One moment she can be so warm and the next, cold. In this tale, a young woodcutter and his father went out into the forest to cut wood but found themselves stranded in the snowstorm. The father died from the snowstorm but he survived because the Snow Woman found him attractive. She let him live but under one condition: never tell anyone about their encounter. If he breaks the promise, she will kill him. Long story short, a year later, when he recovered, he met a beautiful fair skin woman (Snow Woman) just passing along mysteriously. The woodcutter fell in love with her and they both had three children together. One evening, while he was making sandals for the children and for his wife, the woodcutter innocently smiled at his wife and told her how he met Snow woman in the shelter on a snowy day. Like a light switch, the wife turned from warm to cold because the woodcutter had broken a promise. The wife revealed she was the Snow Woman and so he must die. But out of sympathy, she decided to let him live instead for the sake of their children. It’s an unfortunate tale that demonstrated how women can be unforgiving. Sadly, he spoke wrongly unintentionally, as he meant to compliment her on her beauty. How is this tale haunting? Well, beautiful women can be quite scary, but we fall for them anyway.

Note: For this film analysis, I will break it into three posts. It’s a long film which runs about 3 hours. My final thoughts will be at the end of the analysis. Originally posted on Nov. 11, 2019. Revised April 2, 2022.