Gate of Hell (1954, Teinosuke Kinugasa)

Teinosuke Kinugasa is is not exactly a household name in the west but he was a Japanese pioneer whose legacy reaches back to the silent days and the remarkable avant-garde drama “A Page of Madness,” [12]


Gate of hell is a 1953 adaptation of Kan Kikuchi’s stage play. [5] It is the story of a thirteenth century warrior  Moritoh Enda—a handsome and proud samurai—who falls in love with a dainty Japanese lady whom he aids and saves during a palace revolt and later requests in marriage, only to learn that she already is wed. Burning with a mad desire for her, he besieges her in her happy married state and causes her such shame and sorrow that she commits suicide..[6][7]

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The film was made using Eastman Color film, a very new process at the time, only introduced in 1950. The process used a varied camera and different use of negatives which were then dyed to produce vivid colors.

Above are film grabs of the film which make show the film vivid colors and with his framing against texutres many often feel it is comparable to the best in Japanese art


New York Times quoted “It is hard to convey in simple language the moving qualities of this lovely film”[4]

The film start with long scroll of an action painting of the battle.


Teinosuke often creates tensions within the shots and trys to bring the dramaitc feelings out so that the audience can relate and get into the mood. This film much more subtle compare to Akira Kurosawa[13] ran and seven samurai. This film is much slower as compare to his other films such as Teinosuke tries to bring out love in a totally different way.

This film talk about dignity ,loyalty and moral values. The film also consist of very depth cultural values.

The dazzling colour and elaborate period recreation give Gate of Hell the look and feel of an elemental mythic tale .[10]


117_GATE-OF-HELL_DVD_72dpi Untitled-1

Drawing inspiration from the film original poster and the film i come out with this design.


As the the film emphasis alot on the color i decided to vector out Lady Kesa and place it against a Japanese theme background by using a Japanese background i try to stay as close to what Teinosuke want to tell, elements of Japanese cultures within the film . My interpretation of the sword is as it is the main factor why Lady Kesa choose to suicide at the end of the film. As it is Moritoh Enda a Japanese warrior [in the film he attacks with a sword too] who indirectly forces her to commit suicide so i decided to use the sword to so called draw blood on the character.

Author :Chew Keng Hao , An aspiring director and director of photography. You can find out more about him via : http://chewkenghao.wix.com/kenghao

References :

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jigokumon_poster.jpg
  2. http://www.criterion.com/films/28199-gate-of-hell
  3. http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/2727-gate-of-hell-a-colorful-history
  4. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9901E4D9173CE03ABC4C52DFB467838F649EDE
  5. http://louderthanwar.com/gate-of-hell-dvd-review-by-ian-johnston/
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gate_of_Hell_(film)
  7. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045935/plotsummary?ref_=tt_ov_pl
  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastman_Color_Negative
  9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daiei_Film
  10. http://louderthanwar.com/gate-of-hell-dvd-review-by-ian-johnston/
  11. http://www.festival-cannes.com/en/archives/ficheFilm/id/3843/year/1954.html
  12. http://social.entertainment.msn.com/movies/blogs/blog–classic-gate-of-hell-%E2%80%93-the-first-japanese-film-masterwork-in-color
  13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akira_Kurosawa

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