‘Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters’ is a film about the life of the great Japanese author, Yukio Mishima. Mishima was a superstar of Japanese literature, writing many novels, plays and short stories – he even dabbled in modelling and acting. However, Mishima was a traditionalist and nationalist, who lamented and fought against the ‘westernisation’ of Japanese culture – he actively called for a return to traditional Japanese values and the samurai spirit.
His masterpiece is the Proustian tetralogy, ‘The Sea of Fertility’. On the very morning he finished writing the final volume, ‘The Decay of the Angel’, he went to an army barracks with members of his far right-wing militia and tried to start a coup. His speech to all the troops from the roof of the barracks was an embarrassment however; realising he was not going to get the support he needed, he barricaded himself inside the barracks and committed Seppuku – a samurai form of suicide by which the victim uses a special knife to cut into and across the abdomen.
Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters tackles his life by interweaving scenes from 3 of his books – The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoko’s House and Runaway Horses (volume 2 of ‘The Sea of Fertility’) with biographical episodes from his own life.
The film was never given a general release in Japan due to pressure from far-right groups who were unhappy with the film’s portrayal of Mishima, particularly as a homosexual. Most surprisingly about this film is who was behind it – it was produced by George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola and its soundtrack was written by Philip Glass – yet it is an almost unheard of curiosity.