The Eel (1997), a Japanese film by Shohei Imamura, adapted from a story, centers on two sinners trying to find peace. One is a man, Yamashita (Koji Yakusho), the other a woman, Keiki (Misa Shimizu). Keiki, who attempts suicide over a romantic attachment to a married man, comes to love Yamashita, but he keeps his emotional distance from her. Possibly this is because Yamashita was habitually unforgiving of his wife until, after discovering her adultery one day, he murdered her. Now an ex-con, he is coming to grips with his clear iniquity.
Pretty Keiki is a pleasant, conventional young woman, and before the murder Yamashita was a quite conventional man, and thereby the film indicates how, sometimes, conventional people are motivated to dreadful extremes.
The ex-con, as it turns out, is now rather odd. He has made a beloved pet of an eel, and there is symbolic weight here. For one thing, the male eel is a creature of certain sacrifice, and Yamashita proves to be this too. This is done for Keiki’s sake: the two sinners looking for peace finally have chaos thrust upon them, and only a particular gesture will eliminate it. It begins to seem as though there will be no peace for Yamashita and Keiki, but we would have to consider ourselves presumptuous for believing such a thing.
Its finish hopeful, The Eel is an impressive picture.