Close Up

10 December 2015: Ikiru



Akira Kurosawa
1952 | 137 min | B/W | 35mm  

Opening with a shot of an x-ray, showing the main character's stomach, Ikiru tells the tale of a dedicated, downtrodden civil servant who, diagnosed with a fatal cancer, learns to change his dull, unfulfilled existence, and suddenly discovers a zest for life. Plunging first into self-pity, then a bout of hedonistic pleasure-seeking on the frenetic streets of post-war Tokyo, Watanabe – the film's hero – finds himself driven to give some meaning to his life, finally finding satisfaction through building a children's playground. Ikiru (To Live) stands out as an exception among Kurosawa's films – it lacks violence and, although set in post-war Japan, does not involve crime. Beautifully played by Takashi Shimura (who starred in 21 of Kurosawa's films), Ikiru is an intensely lyrical and moving film, and was one of Kurosawa's own favourites.

Part of our Akira Kurosawa season