Shivering brutality and eye-opening aberrance in "Revenge I: A Visit from Fate" are intensified nightmarishly in "Serpent's Way", in which convoltedly strange characters are in and out of drastic absurdity and their situation becomes more labyrinthine with bone-dry laughs, while, after witnessing the absolute sublimity of "Revenge I" refusing even to be a film itself, there is annoying saccharineness to be cinematic.
An atmospheric and psychologically intense crime thriller, which plunges characters and viewers into a labyrinthine spiral of child molestation and yakuza crime, both serving to strike another blow at the seemingly conformist contemporary Japan, its banality of evil and repressed (sexual) aggression. Maybe too convoluted for its own good, it has some finely shot set pieces both outdoors and in the derelict interiors.
Seems to exist in the same ghostly, uninhabited world as many of Kurosawa's better-known horror films; with a similar emphasis on long-held observations of decaying industrial spaces & a feeling of characters being somewhat arcane. While the film initially promises a straight-forward crime/revenge drama, Serpent's Path is perhaps more Michael Haneke than Michael Mann, with its focus on video tapes & recorded memory.
It's best to think of this movie as part of a double-feature with 'Eyes of the Spider'. They share a leading man, a release year and a theme: revenge. Sho does not appear to be a man interested in revenge. He's a math professor. But he becomes entangled and his motives only become clear later on.
9 - Already an extremely impressive film if you DON'T take into account the fact that Kurosawa produced it (plus another film) in two weeks, on a tiny budget. Less elliptical than "Cure", but equally as affecting, this surreal, coarse but never clunky crime tale acts as an astonishing essay on the susceptibility of the human mind to the urge to perpetuate cycles of violence, how they propagate, and how it must end.
Pretty devastating. Like a nightmare brought to life, progressing further and further into abstracted space, and characters being put down like animals---death as a means of becoming a corpse and nothing more. Evil's beyond our comprehension, even when we're part of it.