Shinshū Province, 1860s. Perched on the back of her eldest son Tatsuhei, Orin-Yan slowly climbs towards the summit of mount Nara. The old woman has reached her 69th year and, in keeping with the tradition of ubasute, it is here, after being hauled up a path strewn with human bones and snow-capped rocks, that she must end her days. In preparation for her final journey towards death, Orin-Yan has put her affairs in order. No longer will she be a burden on her family.
Considered one of the masters of Japanese New Wave cinema, Shôhei Imamura consistently criticised the inertia of Japanese society through cold and clinical, often satirical, films. In this harsh masterpiece, adapted from Shichirô Fukazawa's famous novels, the director reveals how certain deeply held traditions, in the country's small and remote villages, have forged the way of life – through sacrifice – of the poorest in society.