Where can love take us? A very great distance. It can carry us to lands that we never thought to visit, lands both metaphorical and real. Love can redefine the nature of reality, can redefine how it is that we see ourselves. Love can make us do things that we never believed were possible, or right, or good. Love breeds obsession, and is bred from obsession. It breeds desire, and is bred from desire. Both Nagisa Oshima's In the Realm of the Senses and Percy Adlon's Sugarbaby address the nature of erotic obsessions in their films, but while Oshima's vision is dark and almost repellent in some places, Adlon's is far more joyous. The two films can in many ways be seen as expressing the different faces and experiences of love - the love that redeems and gives joy, and the love that drives people to despair.
Oshima's movie is based on real events from pre-war Japan, and knowing that this is something that is at least based in reality makes the story both more compelling and far more disturbing, for it is a story not of love gone right but of love gone terribly wrong. But while that is true that is also too facile an explanation for the movie's power, for it is never simply about the experiences of one individual, about the particular contour of the sexual pathology of one woman. Rather, it is about the entire world of this woman and how the constraints of her world worked to produce a climate and a character that are so perilous.
The movie explores how sex loses its pleasure for