The Geisha (film)

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German title The geisha
Original title Memoirs of a Geisha
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 2005
length 145 minutes
Age rating FSK 12
JMK 10
Director Rob Marshall
script Robin Swicord
production Lucy Fisher ,
Steven Spielberg ,
Douglas Wick
music John Williams
camera Dion Beebe
cut Pietro Scalia

The Geisha (Original title: Memoirs of a Geisha ) is a drama film from 2005 by director Rob Marshall with Zhang Ziyi , Ken Watanabe , Michelle Yeoh and Gong Li in the lead roles. The film is based on the 1997 novel The Geisha by Arthur Golden .


Japan , in 1929: Nine-year-old Chiyo lives with her older sister Satsu and her parents in the small Japanese fishing village of Yoroido. Before her mother dies, the father sells Chiyo and Satsu to a geisha house, a so-called okiya, in the old imperial city of Kyoto . However, Satsu is not accepted and is instead sent to a brothel in another part of the city. Chiyo, who with her blue eyes promises to be an extraordinary beauty, suffers from the separation from her sister and from the cruel treatment of the owners of the geisha house. She cannot appear for an escape agreed with her sister, but her sister manages to escape. In addition, she is now also informed that both parents have died. Due to her attempt to escape, the Okiya mistress is no longer willing to invest in Chiyo's training as a geisha. Henceforth the girl has to eke out a life as a maid. Her only friend is Pumpkin Head, who was also brought to the Okiya for training.

One day when Chiyo is sitting sadly on a bridge, she is approached and cheered up by an elegant gentleman; he bought her a bag of sweet ice cream. He is accompanied by two geishas who call him "Director". As Chiyo eats her ice cream and looks at the two geishas, ​​she realizes that being a geisha can open up something completely new. She decides to do everything possible to become a geisha and to meet the director again at some point. In the winter, when Chiyo turns 15, the successful geisha Mameha and the owner of the okiya agree that she will take over the training of Chiyo. From now on the girl learns all the artistic and social skills that a geisha needs. She and her friend Pumpkin Head are now rivals because she is starting her training under Hatsumomo. Since Hatsumomo hates Mameha, she forbids pumpkin heads to interact with Chiyo and the two girls fall apart. A few months later, Chiyo makes her debut as "Sayuri" and gets to know a life full of luxury, privileges and intrigues. She also made the acquaintance of influential men like Nobu Toshikazu, Dr. Krebs and the baron, the Danna from Mameha. As it turns out, the director she meets again is the famous Iwamura Ken, who runs Osaka Electrics with Nobu.

When the Second World War reached Japan, Sayuri was able to flee to the mountains thanks to the help of Nobu and the director and lived there for years as a fabric dyer for a kimono manufacturer. After the war ended, Nobu asked Sayuri for her help; so that she can enable him and the director to sign a contract with a donor from the USA, she returns to the okiya to work as a geisha again. With the help of Mameha, who works as a landlady, and Pumpkin Head, who has a lot to do with Americans, she begins her task. Despite all these years Sayuri has not given up her love for the director, but when Nobu opens up that he will soon offer himself to her as Danna, she makes a desperate decision: She has to get Nobu to despise her and turn away from her. There is only one way to achieve this: Surrender to Nobu's contractual partner, who has already had an eye on them. Instead of Nobu, however, the director sees her and Sayuri senses that all hope is now gone. Nobu, however, has found out about everything and gives up on Sayuri. The director tells Sayuri everything, and in the end he confesses his years of love to her and explains why Mameha came to her to train her as a geisha. Sayuri tells him that in the past she did everything to be closer to him. In tears, the director wraps her in his arms and together they walk over a bridge in a Japanese garden .


  • The term Hanamachi used in the film refers to the part of a city where the geishas live. Okiya is called the home of a geisha.
  • Arthur Golden , the author of the novel, spent several years in Japan. He is said to have been inspired by a meeting in Tokyo where he met the illegitimate son of a respected businessman and a geisha. When researching his novel, the author is said to have mainly based on the experience of the geisha Mineko Iwasaki , a good friend of his grandmother's. Iwasaki was a well-known geisha for the Japanese upper class for years.
  • Originally, the Chinese actress Maggie Cheung was slated for the role of Mameha. However, she turned down the role: "I didn't want to come home and people say I cheated on my culture," wrote the Chongqing Shibao newspaper.
  • Since the district of Gion in today's Kyoto, in which the action in the novel takes place, looked too modern for the film, a historical Japanese district was built for the shooting in Thousand Oaks , California .
  • John Williams's score consisted of two important elements: Sayuri's theme, played on a Yo-Yo Ma cello , and the director's theme, played on a violin by Itzhak Perlman .
  • The director took artistic liberties in portraying the geishas and deliberately presented them in a more fashionable and modern way instead of strictly adhering to the historical models. Costume designer Colleen Atwood said: "We give an impression of the time rather than depicting it in reality".
  • The shooting took place from September 29, 2004 to January 31, 2005 at various locations in California and Kyoto, Japan.
  • Production costs were estimated at around $ 85 million. The film grossed around 162 million US dollars in cinemas worldwide, including around 57 million US dollars in the USA and around 8 million US dollars in Germany.
  • The US theatrical release was on December 9, 2005, with a release limited to a few cities; the nationwide release began on December 23, 2005. In Germany, the film was released on January 19, 2006.


  • This is a film for the eyes and ears, not the heart and brain. ( Toronto Star )
  • Dressed up, graceful - but superficial. ( TV feature film )
  • Arthur Golden's international bestseller was brought to the screen with beauty and tact. ( Variety )
  • Melodramatically accentuated, solidly played pomp film, which is exhausted in the emotional rollercoaster of a dramatic love story. Staging a crude mix of cultures that hardly attaches importance to conveying Far Eastern social phenomena. ( Film service )

The film sparked protests and outrage in both Japan and China. The reason for this was the casting of the Japanese geisha roles with Chinese actresses. At the world premiere in Tokyo there was talk of a "scandal" in the local press. In China, the film never even hit theaters; the synchronization was canceled. Chinese director Chen Kaige said: “A Chinese woman cannot play geisha, it is a traditional figure in Japanese culture. (…) But maybe the director didn't care. ”In particular, Zhang Ziyi, who played the geisha, was exposed to harsh criticism and even threats in her home country, as some Chinese still regard Japan as an archenemy.

Further criticism from Asia of the US-American producers of the film was the arbitrary casting of the roles regardless of the exact origin of the Asian actors, which caused hardship and at times accusations of racism, based on the motto "all slit eyes look the same" .

The German Film and Media Evaluation FBW in Wiesbaden awarded the film the title valuable.

Awards (selection)

Academy Awards 2006 :

British Academy Film Awards 2006 :

Golden Globe Awards 2006 :

Satellite Awards 2005 :

  • Best adapted script
    • nominated in the categories:
      • Best film - drama
      • Best director
      • Best Actress - Drama (Zhang Ziyi)
      • Best Supporting Actress - Drama ( Gong Li )
      • Best camera
      • Best film score
      • Best production design
      • Best costumes

Screen Actors Guild Awards 2006 :

  • Nomination in the Best Actress category for Zhang Ziyi

National Board of Review 2005 :

  • Best Supporting Actress (Gong Li)


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Certificate of Release for The Geisha . Voluntary self-regulation of the film industry , January 2006 (PDF; test number: 104 795 K).
  2. Age rating for Die Geisha . Youth Media Commission .
  3. Hanamachi in the English language Wikipedia
  4. ^ Okiya in the English language Wikipedia
  5. a b c Documentation on DVD
  9. Bring me Zhang Ziyi's braid . FAZ-Net
  10. All slit eyes . In: Die Zeit , No. 3/2006; Article about the film
  11. Article: Danes, Swedes and Other Slender Eyes in Ray Magazine