What follows that very tender moment in the car is one of the great erotic sequences in the history of film. It takes up about 7 minutes of screen time, but it speaks volumes about the marriage and the individuals both connecting to and confusing one another.

Here I must insert a personal bias: one of the things I hate most about porn is the idiotic talk that takes place within it. And it has infected our culture. I’ve been with several women who behave (more specifically, they talk) in bed as if they are trapped in one of these stupid vehicles, spouting off dirty talk cliches that don’t arouse me in the slightest, they just make me feel like I’m taking part in a generic physical ritual.

Which is not to say that I think sex must or should be silent. Maybe I’m the weirdo for liking something closer to real conversation in bed. But if that’s my kink, then this scene ranks for me as something far more genuinely arousing than what that industry creates. With the possible exception of the opening of “Hiroshima Mon Amour,” it is the most literate sex scene ever filmed.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This scene is in three parts and all are esssential. It starts with a lovely shot of a darkened room — the mirror dead center. You hear the couple’s footsteps first, then a light comes on. You see them in the mirror. They pass in the living room, each turning on a light. We see Kafuku embrace Oto. His expression is lustful, hers mournful.

They kiss, then he quickly begins to undress her. She looks not exactly disinterested, but a bit detached. It feels like she’s going through the motions. We then cut to them unclothed on the couch. Only a few minutes of screen time ago, the couple looked tired and somewhat old in a doctor’s office. But here, they look remarkably fit and vigorous.

Kafuku is on top and Oto seems to be searching for a soft connection between them, but he then pulls her up into a seated position, the same sexual position that he caught her performing earlier with Takatsuki. We of course don’t know this, but I get the sense that this is an unfamiliar sexual position for them. Oto now looks even more disconnected, perhaps even dissociated.

The movie cuts to a shot of a lamp. We then see the couple lying together on the couch, Kafuku half asleep, Oto awake and pondering. After about 10 seconds of silence she says “One day she remembers her previous existence.“ Kafuku rouses and replies “you mean the girl who sneaks into houses?” And Oto says “She’d been a lamprey in her previous life.”

A word about the lamprey story — as I mentioned previously, this was not a complete invention of Hamaguchi. He adapted the lamprey tale from Murakami’s short story “Scheherazade.” But what he’s done with it is something far more fascinating than the original.

In the book, the lamprey is a mysterious creature, one that sways with the currents and feeds on trout. But in Oto’s tale in the film, the lamprey is noble, but also acts compulsively, latching herself onto a rock as a way of not feeding on fish, perhaps embracing death.

Hearing this story from Oto first in a post coital state, but then continuing onto a new sexual act, we begin to wonder — who or what is the rock Oto is grasping onto? Is it her sexual compulsions that she cannot give up? Or is it Kafuku and her safe, comfortable life? Or maybe it’s her continued grief over her child’s death? You can see on his face that he’s puzzling this out — what is her unconscious revealing? I almost wished in this moment for some of Stendhal’s brilliant psychological narration of the conflict, but in truth, the silent mystery is so much more powerful and pays off later in the film.

Kafuku has his own fascinating reaction to what is happening. His attempt to recreate Oto’s sexual scenario did not lead to a similar passionate moment, but one far softer and sadder. But now, telling the lamprey story, her passion has returned. This is her story now, and apparently her libido needs that level of control. But now it’s Kafuku’s turn to feel distant. Why can’t he get this level of passion in the scenario he wants to act out?

What happens from here is so brilliant that I feel inadequate to recount it. The girl who breaks into her crush’s home in her story — the one who was a lamprey in a past life — is suddenly turned on thinking that she has become a lamprey again and she begins to masturbate on the boy’s bed. But while doing this, she hears someone enter the house, and now she’s certain that she is going to be discovered. But she can’t stop and feels both arousal and a sense of relief that she will be caught in the act. Kafuku listens to this story, but also is taking part in a sex act where Oto is becoming deeply aroused as she talks.

As the story rises and her sexual activity peaks, Kafuku covers his eyes … as if he’s embarrassed to discover that maybe Oto has known all along that he walked in her.

The Lamprey