Black Rain (1989 Japanese film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Black Rain
Black Rain 1989.jpg
DVD cover
Directed byShōhei Imamura
Written by
  • Shōhei Imamura
  • Toshirō Ishido
Based onBlack Rain
by Masuji Ibuse
Produced byHisashi Iino
CinematographyTakashi Kawamata
Edited byHajime Okayasu
Music byTōru Takemitsu
  • Hayashibara Group
  • Imamura Productions
Distributed byToei
Release date
  • 13 May 1989 (1989-05-13) (Japan)
Running time
123 minutes[1][2]

Black Rain (黒い雨, Kuroi ame) is a 1989 Japanese drama film by director Shōhei Imamura, based on the novel of the same name by Masuji Ibuse. The story centers on the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and its effect on a surviving family.[2][3]


Half-orphan Yasuko, who lives with her uncle Shigematsu and his wife Shigeko in Hiroshima, is in the middle of moving family belongings to the house of an acquaintance in the vicinity, when the atomic bomb is dropped. She returns to the city by boat and gets into a black rain, a fallout resulting from the bombing. After Yasuko is re-united with her uncle and aunt, the trio heads for the factory where her uncle works to escape the spreading fires. Their route is marked by ruins, scattered corpses, and severely burnt survivors.

5 years later, Yasuko lives with her uncle, aunt and her uncle's mother in Fukuyama. As she has long reached the age when a woman should get married by tradition, Shigematsu and Shigeko try to find a husband for her. Yet all prospects' families withdraw their proposal when they hear of Yasuko's presence in Hiroshima on the day of the bombing, fearing that she might become ill or be unable to give birth to healthy children. Yasuko eventually accepts her situation and decides to stay with her uncle's family, even when her father, who re-married, offers her to live in his house.

Shigematsu witnesses his friends, all hibakusha suffering from radiation sickness, die one after another, while also his, his wife's and niece's health is slowly deteriorating. Yasuko starts feeling close to Yuichi, a young man from the neighbourhood who is suffering from a war trauma. When Yuichi's mother asks for Shigematsu's approval of her son marrying Yasuko, he is indignant at first because of Yuichi's mental illness, but later agrees. Shortly after, Yasuko, already suffering from a tumor, starts losing her hair and is sent to the hospital. Shigematsu watches the departing ambulance, hoping for a rainbow to appear which would indicate that she will recover.

Throughout the Japanese film Black Rain, the story of the consequences of the bombing of Hiroshima are portrayed in graphic detail. Journals and first hand accounts of the victims of the Hiroshima atomic bombing can be used to better support the story and imagery used in Black Rain. These first hand accounts are from some of the survivors still alive today who are trying to shed light on how terrible nuclear weapons can be for innocent civilians. One of these victims recollected that he “was three years old at the time of the bombing. {He couldn’t} remember much, but {he did} recall that {his} surroundings turned blindingly white…Then, pitch darkness. {He} was buried alive under the house. {His} face was misshapen. {He} was certain that {he} was dead.” In Black Rain, there was a scene similar to this where bodies were engulfed by a blinding light followed by the insurmountable suffering of the masses. There is another story of a woman’s father who was in the blast and suffered from many of the same long term effects of the bomb shown in Black Rain. In both the account and in the movie, hair falls out of the victims’ heads and they slowly die of radiation poisoning from the bomb. These are but two witness accounts of the bombings that provide evidence of the horrific effects of nuclear weapons as portrayed in the movie Black Rain. Some of the accounts described the horrors of the surroundings and the conditions of the bodies after the bombing. Yoshiro Yamawaki and his brothers were going to check on their father who was working in a factory. The air quality is described in both the witness’ story and the movie as being horrible, smelling of rotten flesh. They passed many misshapen bodies and some who had their “”skin peeling off just like that of an over - ripe peach, exposing the white fat underneath.’” This is just one example of the horror that Japanese citizens of Hiroshima would have seen and this is also depicted in Black Rain. When the uncle of the main character exits the train station, there are black skinned bodies everywhere and countless others who are so misfigured that their own family could not even recognize them. It is incredible that one action could irrevocably impact the future of so many people long after any war has ceased. Black Rain and the first hand accounts of people who lived through the bombing, reveal in dramatic detail the life long, negative effects of nuclear weapons on a population.



Black Rain met with mostly positive reviews. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it 3½ of 4 stars, praising its "beautifully textured" black-and-white photography and pointing out that its purpose was not an anti-nuclear message movie but "a film about how the survivors of that terrible day internalized their experiences".[4] Geoff Andrew, writing for Time Out, stated that "despite the largely sensitive depiction of waste, suffering and despair, the often ponderous pacing and the script's solemnity tend to work against emotional involvement".[5] Film scholar Alexander Jacoby discovered an "almost Ozu-like quietism", citing Black Rain as an example of the "mellowed" Imamura in his later years.[6] Film historian Donald Richie pointed out the film's "warmth, sincerity and compassion".[7]



  1. ^ a b "黒い雨 (Black Rain)" (in Japanese). Japanese Movie Database. Retrieved 8 July 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "黒い雨 (Black Rain)" (in Japanese). Kinema Junpo. Retrieved 8 July 2021.
  3. ^ "黒い雨 (Black Rain)" (in Japanese). kotobank. Retrieved 8 July 2021.
  4. ^ "Reviews: Black Rain". 24 September 1990. Retrieved 8 July 2021.
  5. ^ Pym, John, ed. (1998). Time Out Film Guide. Seventh Edition 1999. London: Penguin Books.
  6. ^ Jacoby, Alexander (2008). Critical Handbook of Japanese Film Directors: From the Silent Era to the Present Day. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press. p. 67. ISBN 978-1-933330-53-2.
  7. ^ Richie, Donald (2005). A Hundred Years of Japanese Film (Revised ed.). Tokyo, New York, London: Kodansha International. p. 266. ISBN 978-4-7700-2995-9.
  8. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Black Rain". Retrieved 2009-08-01.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ima-Izumi, Yoko (2007). "Nuclear Bomb Films in Japan and America: Two Black Rain Films"". In Narita, Tatsushi (ed.). Essays on British and American Literature and Culture: From Perspectives of Transpacific American Studies. Nagoya: Kougaku Shuppan.
  • Tachibana, Reiko (November 8, 1998). "Seeing Between the Lines: Imamura Shohei's Kuroi Ame (Black Rain)". Literature Film Quarterly. Archived from the original on 2008-06-18. Retrieved 8 July 2021. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

External links[edit]