Divided into four sections titled "Beauty," "Art," "Action" and "Harmony of Pen and Sword," Mishima is based -- in a fascinating creative choice -- not only on Mishima's life and scandalous death, but also on his work. Schrader uses three of Mishima's semi-autobiographical novels as the basis for exploring the author's obsessions and ideas. Cutting back and forth between these tales and Mishima's real-life move toward a final, desperate act meant to inspire national unity, the film comes to a startling conclusion as all four tales end in bloody self-destruction. The liberal blend of fact and fact-based fiction allows Schrader to compose hauntingly symbolic, dream-like images, set against a moody score from avant-garde composer Philip Glass, although the dividing line between literary adaptation and biographical material is made clear by the use of black and white for the film's flashbacks. The end result stands as one of Schrader's best films.