In a break from the norm, and befitting New Year’s celebrations, this week’s Not In The English Language is dedicated to the finest “world cinema” home video release of 2010, as decreed by Adam Batty.

Fritz Lang once proclaimed that Cinemascope was only useful for “Snakes and Coffins”. How befitting then that Shohei Imamura’s epic widescreen tale of life on a desolate island features both.

Profound Desires Of The Gods opens with a blast of sunlight that appears to awaken what it is that is required of the viewer at the centre of the film’s performance. It sounds incredibly portentous, but it genuinely opens with a transcendental act (of the Gods?) that immediately transports the viewer to a world that is at once familiar, but completely alien in its standing.

How appropriate that such a feeling transpires, when one considers the matter at hand; A native family ground in incestuous activity struggles to adapt to the emergence of new people on their island home. The grandfather, the last bastion of a tradition that is as confused as it is honourable, seeks to reign in his family and adapt his own ideals, both demanding and contradictory, to the changing landscape.

As mentioned above, Profound Desires Of The Gods is transcendental in the most literal of ways. The beautiful visuals and languid pace combine to create an atmosphere that is fairly unique for this period of time, and one that would foreshadow the likes of Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Carlos Reygadas. ‘Epic’ is a word that immediately springs to mind when one considers the general aura that Imamura’s film emits, yet I would hasten to add that this is more a note on the films mammoth running time and general visual code than the scale of the tale being told.

The immediate story at hand is actually fairly intimate. The film is punctuated by close up shots of wild animals and birds, and Macro shots of various insects, all seemingly ‘watching’ the events of the film taking place. As these very animals are referred to as a part of the semi-conceptual Gods of the title one could surmise that these are playing a far more important role than the unexplained cut-aways are actually proclaiming, and would indicate that the entire act of ‘spectating’, audience included, would lend to this overall metaphysical-structure of “God”.

Alongside these visual indicators as to ‘stepping back’ from the immediate picture, diegetic songs performed by a secondary character fill in temporal based narrative gaps in the story, updating the spectator (both on screen and viewing the film as a member of the audience) with the events that have occurred in the time that has passed since the screen last faded to black.

That the songs being sung are in the vein of traditional folk songs adds a resonance to the finale of the film, when we see the family of the Futori’s wholly become a part of the mythology of the island locale in which the film takes place. The climax of the film melds modernity (in the form of the train being used as a means of transport), with old world mythology (in the form of the figure encountered).

As I constantly feel obligated to point out in any piece on Japanese cinema, Japanese film is not a national cinema that I am overly familiar with, nor is it one that I am generally taken by, so encounters such as this, with films like Profound Desires Of The Gods, are as valuable as they are surprising. Its also further proof that boutique DVD labels such as The Criterion Collection and Eureka’s Masters Of Cinema imprint are as important a resource as any curator or festival programmer to the aspiring cinephile, offering up gems like this which might usually be ignored.

Adam Batty is the Editor of Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second, and can be found on   Twitter.