Nagisa Oshima Margaret Tarratt - Essay

Margaret Tarratt

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In The Boy, traffic] is used to express a sense of social isolation and indeed, alienation…. The family forms a tight unit held together by mutual need against the rest of society. But within that unit there is continual antagonism both silent and violent…. Oshima has suggested that the father, who uses his war experiences as an excuse for his conduct, is an archetypal Japanese patriarch. In his authoritarian role, an analogy may be drawn between the Emperor rulers of Japan who have dominated the country for two thousand years. Such analogies, however, are remote from the fabric of the film….

[The] movement between colour and monochrome together with the often unlinked scenes suggests that we are inhabiting the boy's private dream world. Rejecting the example of human beings, the boy's heroes are the men from outer space whom he believes to be strong, self-sufficient but beneficent. (p. 43)

The boy's long speech in the snow, the placing of his watch and the dead girl's boot on the snowman and his angry destruction of it, seem to overweigh the film with cumbersome symbolism—even if we realise that the placing of objects on a snowman is a Japanese custom…. The film is at its most impressive when symbolic overtones are absent, in the trivial details of everyday life permeated with a gnawing melancholy—a chilly tone which holds the attention. It is a film constructed in a minor key in which the big scenes are something of a fiasco. (pp. 43, 46)

Margaret Tarratt, "Film Guide: 'The Boy'" (© copyright Margaret Tarratt 1970; reprinted with permission), in Films and Filming, Vol. 16, No. 11, August, 1970, pp. 43, 46.