Enjo (Enjō) is a Japanese full-length feature film that was directed by Kon Ichikawa. Ichikawa became known for his dark movies. While they seemed bleak, each one held a tiny bit of hope and a glimmer of humanity, pulling the viewer into the world that Ichikawa creates. He is compared to such great Japanese directors as Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu. Enjo was released in 1958 and was adapted from a novel called The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. Both the movie and the book are based on a true life situation that occurred in 1950, where a temple was burned by a Buddhist acolyte. Conflagration is the English translation of Enjo, but unlike most Japanese movies, this one is generally called by the Japanese title of Enjo. It is one of the works that Ichikawa is most well-known for.
Goichi is a Buddhist acolyte who comes from his village to the Kyoto temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion. He has come to study so that he may truly understand and embrace the ways of the Buddhist life. Shortly before he leaves home, he discovers that his mother has been having an affair behind his father’s back. His father is unable to take the shock of the news and dies. Goichi has been psychologically tormented by his mother his entire life, causing him to have a severe stuttering problem as well as a very meek temperament. It is his father’s last words about the beauty of the Golden Pavilion that push him to go there.
It is at the Golden Pavilion that Goichi meets a man named Tsurukawa. Tsurukawa is a monk, and is the first person who does not laugh at Goichi’s stutter. He treats him as a human being and the two swiftly become friends. After a year of friendship, Tsurukawa, who has fallen in love with a girl, commits suicide rather than face his choices. Goichi draw within himself once again and turns all of his love and desire towards the Golden Pavilion.
Goichi is then introduced to a student named Kashiwagi. Kashiwagi is crippled, which makes Goichi much more comfortable to be in his presence. The two start to become friends fairly quickly. Goichi is envious of the way Kashiwagi can get girls to fall in love with him so easily. Wishing to help his friend, Kashiwagi introduces a woman to Goichi. In the middle of an intimate moment, Goichi suddenly sees the Golden Pavilion in his mind. His emotions are so mixed up that he equates desire with the Pavilion.
He remembers words from his father, who told him that fire can cleanse. Goichi decides that he must burn down the Golden Pavilion in order to stop himself from the darkness of life. He feels that if he burns down the Pavilion, which is also being secretly run as a tourist attraction, it will cleans the world, and his own soul, of any darkness there is.