This month’s Film Club offering is the 1957 film The Lower Depths, based on the Maxim Gorky play of the same name.
Kurosawa began work on The Lower Depths soon after adapting another stage play onto the big screen, Shakespeare’s Macbeth as Throne of Blood (also 1957). Although both films are based on stage plays, they are very different works. Where Throne of Blood is desperate and dark, The Lower Depths is much more comic, where Throne of Blood took extraordinary liberties with its source material, The Lower Depths follows Gorky’s play very closely, and where Throne of Blood is driven exclusively by the actions of its main character, The Lower Depths is an ensemble piece where the real protagonist is the location.
The Lower Depths is also far less well known than either its predecessor, or the film that would succeed it, the light hearted adventure film The Hidden Fortress (which we will, in fact, discuss next month). Yet, there is plenty to discuss in this movie, from its characters and actors’ performances to Kurosawa’s use of the set and the camera in this film that would be his last filmed under the “standard” (or non widescreen) aspect ratio.