Before I watched Ikiru, my exposure to Akira Kurosawa had been from his films Yojimbo, Seven Samurai, Ran, and Rashomon, so one could safely say I saw him as a director that stuck to a very similar genre of film, and that being the samurai themed historical film. So when I saw that this film was set in modern times, when it was shot in the 50’s of course, and with a story that seemed as far removed from the samurai way of life and typical storylines, made me very intrigued.
Though the main reason I was seeing this film is because it was number 124 on the IMDB top 250 list, as of November 17th, 2013. You see, I’m currently making my way through this list, and because of that, I’m getting to see many great films that I may otherwise may have never seen, or at the very least, taken many years to getting around to watching. When a few of those end up being Akira Kurosawa films, it makes the mission of going through these 250 films more of a pleasure than a chore.
Set in city hall of Tokyo in the 1950’s during the post war rebuild, a 30 year ‘lifer’ of the bureaucratic system, sets about trying to finally getting around to actually living his life after he finds out he’s got stomach cancer. As anyone would do who’s been in a rut for decades, and then finds out they have less than a year to live, he sets out on a journey of discovery and tries to reclaim what it is he’s lost over those ‘wasted’ years.
Though, as to be expected, he’s very lost in this journey, and instead tries to live other people’s lives as a way to live his own. But, as you might think, this doesn’t work out for him, and eventually the break through moment happens, and that’s when he realises he can use his position as a city hall bureaucrat to not only help the people, but leave a legacy for himself that he feels is no longer likely with his only son, that now seems to only see him as a ghost that hovers around his own busy and insular life.
Around the two thirds mark though, the storytelling suddenly took a very interesting turn, and without spoiling the story, I’ll just say the rest of the film is told in a very different way, though in a good way. The story is a rather universal one, and despite the film being over 60 years old, I think many people from varying ages, backgrounds, and view points, will connect with this film and its message on one level or another.
So though not my favourite Kurosawa film, it’s still one I’ll fully recommend to others, and though the ending can be seen as both bitter sweet and uplifting, I choose to see it mainly as the latter, because at the end of the day that’s how I like to look at life, and there’s enough in this film and how it ends to happily walk away feeling that way.
8 out of 10 from me!!!