Kwaidan (film)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Kwaidan is a 1964 Japanese anthology film directed by Masaki Kobayashi; the title means 'ghost story'. It is based on stories from Lafcadio Hearn's collections of Japanese folk tales. The film consists of four separate and unrelated stories. Kwaidan is the archaic pronunciation of Kaidan, meaning "ghost story".

The four stories

"The Black Hair" was adapted from "The Reconciliation", which appeared in Hearn's collection Shadowings (1900).

"The Woman of the Snow" is adapted from Hearn's Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (1903). It depicts the folkloric character of Yuki-onna, a ghostly female figure who inhabits snowy regions.

"Hoichi the Earless" is also adapted from Hearn's Kwaidan (though it incorporates aspects of The Tale of the Heike that are mentioned, but never translated, in Hearn's book). It depicts the folkloric tale of Hoichi the Earless, a blind musician, or biwa hoshi, whose specialty is singing the The Tale of the Heike, about the Battle of Dan-no-ura, a war fought between Emperor Antoku and Minamoto no Yoritomo during the last phase of the Genpei War. Hoichi eventually finds himself singing to the ghosts of the very heroes that are the subject of his song.

"In a Cup of Tea" is adapted from Hearn's Kottō: Being Japanese Curios, with Sundry Cobwebs (1902).


While Kwaidan is often described as a horror film, it is not gory or sensational, relying instead on slow buildups of tension and on quiet suspense. Kobayashi's visual style is expressionist, using obviously artificial sets and colorful backdrops lit from behind for many of his outdoor scenes, lending them an almost fairy tale-like quality (the graveyard scenes in "Hoichi the Earless" and the background depicting the giant eye of "The Woman of the Snow" are examples).

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Kwaidan (film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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