Japanese Cinema

Ikiru(1952)

This is my favourite Akira Kurosawa film. It makes me stop and think about life every time I watch it. This film helps you realise that we should all stop and take in what is around us(the sky, the animals, the flowers etc), work is necessary to pay the bills, but there is more to life than your job.

Treasure life with all your heart, because one day you will no longer be here to appreciate it. Afraid that no one will remember you after you have left this earth? Then do something to help others while you’re living, that will make sure your name and deeds are remembered after death.

Takashi Shimura gives a performance that really moves me, he makes you feel his characters pain, anguish and eventual peace with his situation. Shimura is one of the most expressive actors in film history and his performance here should be used in an acting masterclass. Every look, every expression speaks volumes and affects the viewer as we see this mans loneliness, pain, joy and fear.

Kanji Watanabe(Takashi Shimura)is an office worker whose greatest pride in life is his work and his work record. He begins to suffer from terrible stomach pains and is diagnosed with terminal cancer. This news really hits him and he is adrift in life.

Watanabe’s work no longer brings him any joy, and he is desperate to find out the secret to enjoying life, he will learn that there is no such secret. He begs a young office worker(Miki Odagiri)to help him understand how to live, she is frightened by him and doesn’t understand what is driving him.

Watanabe doesn’t realise until later that enjoying life doesn’t mean laughing and going out partying; it can simply be nothing more than appreciating a sunset or sunrise, admiring the beauty of flowers, sitting and watching  what’s going on around you etc.

Life is the very world around us, the air we breathe, the snow, the rain etc. He also learns that he can leave something in this world that says he was here, he sets out to build a park for the local children. In one of the most iconic images in film history we see Watanabe sitting quietly on a swing as the snow falls around him, he is sitting quietly in that moment.

My favourite scenes are the following. Watanabe singing the song with tears in his eyes. When he discovers(before the doctors can tell him)that he is suffering from cancer, the fear and realisation in his eyes really gets to me. All the scenes between Watanabe and the young office girl. The ending showing the park being used as intended.

One of the most moving films there has ever been. This film is so real to me(by that I mean I find myself connecting with Watanabe throughout)his pain and emotional journey don’t seem like a film plot, they seem like a real experience. Shimura’s performance is his very best (in my opinion)he was a one of a kind actor; his face is a kaleidoscope of emotion and he really lets you see and share his characters grief, fear and happiness.

One of Kurosawa’s best films, this story should be one that anyone, from any country can enjoy as the story is so universal.

Any other fans? If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it.

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8 thoughts on “Ikiru(1952)”

  1. It’s difficult to comment on such a beautiful review because you’ve already said everything that there is to be said. I really need to see Ikuru again. I’ve suffered, but I’ve learnt to embrace the absurdity of life, even if I am constantly bemused by the outside world as I struggle to find meaning. This film helps. It should be essential viewing for all human beings!

    Liked by 1 person

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