Marc Rebillet at the Classics Revisited blog has put forward the idea that Kurosawa’s Ikiru differs from the rest of his works in that it allows us to observe characters going through the same process of learning that the director expects us to do in his other films.
In Rebillet’s words,
Throughout this film, the message is perfectly clear to the audience: do good, live life. However, at the end, instead of learning the lesson ourselves, we are allowed to watch a group of Watanabe’s former coworkers discover the moral of the story. This not only reinforces the idea of the film into our heads, but it also allows us to (I hope I’m not over-analyzing here) look at ourselves, in a sense. We are viewing other humans learning a lesson.
You can read the full post here. Do take a look, it’s a short read.