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Years ago, Akira has set out to wander the countryside in order to
collect legends and folk tales. Then one day he reached Demon Pond, where
he promised the dying bellmaster to take care of the bell next to the pond
- because only if the bell is rung thrice a day the Dragon Princess will
refrain from flooding the valley below and grant the populace protection
one more day ...
Initially, Akira thought little of the story about the
Demon Pond, but then he fell in love with Yuri, a local girl, and for her
sake, he stayed as the bellmaster of Demon Pond, and instead of collecting
stories, he has become part of one himself ...
The Dragon Princess
meanwhile is unhappy, because she has to watch over those living beneath
Demon Pond and can therefore not be with her lover, the prince of Snake
Pond (whose fate is similar to hers). Actually, the princess is already
trying to destroy Demon Pond's bell, which would free her from all her
obligations, when she hears Yuri singing, which calms her down,
effectively averting disaster.
The valley beneath Demon Pond is plagued
by a drought, so the villagers have come up with the idea to sacrifice a
girl to the Dragon Princess - and their choice has fallen upon Yuri, the
bellmaster's wife, because a) they don't really believe in the legend
about the bell anymore, and b) since Yuri has married Akira, they don't
see her as one of them anymore. Akira does the best to talk the villagers
out of it, and when that leads nowhere, he puts up a fight for her ...
until Yuri, wanting to end the bloodshed, kills herself. Being devastated
by the death of his wife, Akira refuses to ring the bell - and the whole
valley below is destroyed by a big wave.
The Princess of Demon Pond
couldn't be happier, because with the valley destroyed, she has no more
obligations to the locals (who are all dead anyways) and can finally be
with her lover. Yet out of gratitude she brings Yuri and Akira back to
Actually, Demon Pond was not intended to be a
feature film but was directed for the stage by jack-of-all-trades
filmmaker Takashi Miike - and it was performed to sold-out houses.
Consequently, Demon Pond the movie is not a feature film as such
but merely the videotaping of one such live performance (or maybe even
more than one spliced together, I don't know). That said, Demon Pond does
of course not say much about Takashi Miike the filmmaker (though he was
actively involved in bringing the play to screen) but all the more about
Miike the theatre man - and as stage director, Miike actually does
amazingly well, inasmuch as he reduces his source material's requirements
to the core (including using no more than a single sparce scenery), does
away with all the stage effects the play could have asked for, and instead
relies heavily on his actors and actresses - who are uniformly great. And
if you combine that with a script that combines simplistic folk tales and
high drama with a certain touch of humour and irony, all translated onto
the stage (and screen) light-footedly, you end up with a pretty well-done
play that wonderfully enough loses all its staginess on screen without
ever even trying to deny its theatrical roots ...