Classic Review – Ikiru (1952)

Title – Ikiru (1952)

Director – Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai)

Cast – Takashi Shimura, Shin’ichi Himori, Nobuo Kaneko, Minoru Chiaki

Plot – Diagnosed with terminal cancer, long-serving government office worker Kanji Watanabe (Shimura) begins to search for meaning in a life he realizes has been one he has wasted up to the point of him facing his own mortality.

“I can’t afford to hate people. I don’t have that kind of time”

Review by Eddie on 14/12/2020

Most well known and deservingly so for his work in the samurai film landscape, visionary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa was clearly just as at home directing humanly realistic and relatable dramas as he was spectacle and scope with his touching and memorable Ikiru a showcase for the versatility the esteemed artist had.

Regarded by its creator as a favourite of his works, Ikiru is Kurosawa at his most restrained as he examines the last few months in the life of dying government bureaucrat Kanji Watanabe (frequent Kurosawa collaborator Takashi Shimura) who upon discovery that he has terminal cancer and only a short time to live, sets out to find meaning in a life he is unhappy with upon reflection of wasted years and missed opportunities.

Translated in English to simply mean “To Live”, Ikiru is all about its title as Watanabe tries a life full of revelry and excess, a potential close friendship with a female colleague far younger than he and most importantly fulfilment in his job that could see long lasting changes and a legacy to his works that for the most part have not been a part of his over 30 years of service to a role he slept walked through.

It’s a situation we as humans could all relate to, one’s face to face meeting with their own mortality and cause for reflection upon a life one would hope has been well lived and full of love, laughter, friendships and meaning and Kurosawa explores this idea with a deft hand and one full of grace, care and thoughtfulness.

Filmed in stunning black and white, with a moving soundtrack and enough memorable scenery to last multiple films (the films iconic playground scene a standout), Ikiru is as strong in the technical department as it is in the narrative components of its intimate yet grand story and despite being nearly 70 years old, age has failed to weary a story that is ageless in its timeless themes and human interactions.

It’s the type of classic film that excels in every department, from performances of its entire cast, its carefully considered script work and already discussed technical feats, there’s barely a wrongly timed step in a film that is moving, funny and memorable and undoubtedly one of Kurosawa’s finest moments.

Final Say –

A key component of Akira Kurosawa’s career, Ikiru is a life-affirming tale that has a magic and power rarely found in such human centric dramas. A classic piece of cinema that movie fans from across the world should seek out if they have yet to partake in it.

5 games of Pachinko out of 5

9 responses to “Classic Review – Ikiru (1952)

    • Such a lovely film. I have found some of Akira’s other film’s have aged a little more than this one, the film felt ageless and utterly heartfelt.
      E

      • That’s certainly a good choice for a top Akira film! Seven Samurai would be up there in that echelon of films from what I’ve seen so far of his work. The concept of this movie is quite timeless and powerful.

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