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Narrator in Ikiru?

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    chomei

    I don’t think I have seen this discussed. In the beginning we see an X-ray and there is narration but who, or what is speaking? Another question I have about the film is that X-ray. If as I believe it is not the same as the one seen in the doctors office then who took it? It shows the cancer at an early stage. If the doctors knew earlier wouldn’t they have operated?

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    Vili Maunula

    That’s a very good question, chomei, and I think it ties beautifully with this month’s film club topic, the exploration of truth and subjectivity in Kurosawa’s films.

    Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto makes the same observation as you and asks where that first X-ray comes from. His argument, which I personally pretty much agree with, is that the function of this “impossible” image is to call our attention to the problem of subjectivity and point of view, with which Kurosawa plays throughout the film.

    If you are interested in Yoshimoto’s full argument but don’t have access to his book, you may be able to read the relevant pages (194-197) through Google Books. It’s a good read.

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    Ugetsu

    I think that maybe its the only example of an anonymous narrator in all AK films? I always assumed it was intended to set the film up as a type of ‘fable’ or ‘fairytale’. But perhaps it was also intended to refer back to silent cinema and the use of benshi.

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    chomei

    Thanks for mentioning Yoshimoto, I neglected to do so. I never saw this mentioned by anyone else, and I recall few mentions of the narrator.

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    Vili Maunula

    Ugetsu: I think that maybe its the only example of an anonymous narrator in all AK films?

    I would argue that the text at the beginning of The Idiot could also be called an instance of an anonymous narrator. It reads: “Dostoevsky wanted to portray a genuinely good man. Ironically he chose an idiot for his hero. But a truly good man may seem like an idiot to others. This is the tragic story of the ruin of a pure and simple man.” Like the x-ray at the beginning of Ikiru, this text clearly exists outside of the story’s universe and draws attention to the fictive nature of the film.

    Maybe the chorus at the beginning and the end of Throne of Blood could also qualify?

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    Ugetsu

    I’d forgotten about Throne of Blood and The Idiot. I’d always thought it interesting that the narrator of The Idiot was specifically not Dostoevsky. Although I’d wondered at the time if it was something the studio wanted as a helpful introduction to the audience. I’m no expert on Noh, but isn’t the use of formal narrators intoning in the style we heard in Throne of Blood typical of a Noh play?

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    chomei

    Stray Dog also has a narrator at the beginning. “It was an unbearably hot day”, and then the narrator tells us it was a colt. Interesting.

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    Vili Maunula

    I had totally forgotten about the narrator in Stray Dog!

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    chomei

    I believe the narrator in both “Stray Dog” and “Ikuru” is in essence Buddha. For one thing the opening statement in “Stray Dog” is “It was an unbearably hot day” which is a restatement of The First Noble Truth, “The world is full of suffering.” We also “see” Buddha in SD–the moon, symbolizing family harmony when Shimura takes Mifune to his house for dinner. That is the only scene in the film when the Mifune character isn’t suffering.

    Knowing the fact of suffering and its nature is the first step toward wisdom. In SD the Mifune character certainly gains that awareness. In “Ikuru” the protagonist archives Enlightenment through his understanding of The Fourfold Noble Truth.

    That’s my thought

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    Vili Maunula

    That’s an interesting suggestion, chomei. Do you see other Buddhist elements in Stray Dog?

    I have been thinking about Kurosawa and Buddhism for the last couple of days, basically ever since I posted about the Dreams screenplay, which contains an episode that was ultimately not filmed, but which is probably the most directly Buddhist part of any Kurosawa work.

    My own knowledge of Buddhism is too superficial to really talk about it with any authority.

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    chomei

    While I am a Buddhist I’m not an expert. Buddha teaches that the world is what we make it, in Stray Dog we see 2 men who are pretty much the same, one blames the world, the other takes responsibility for his actions. We see 2 “houses”. One is filthy, the other a family home. Buddha teaches compassion and here also we see one has it and the other doesn’t. Of course what I have written doesn’t apply just to Buddhism, but in Kurosawa’s case I think that is what he intended.

    To shift gears, who is the strange man in Ikuru who tells the protagonist about stomach cancer? Ugetsu suggested Ikuru was a fable and I think that is a very good point. I would call it a parable. Kurosawa seems to be making a very realistic film, but I don’t think that is the case.

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