Tagged: film club, the quiet duel
25 February 2009
Quick question: Is syphilis a metaphor in the film? Some of the writings I’ve seen suggest that it is in some way a metaphor for a poison in the system – maybe even referring to the poison of militarism that somehow needs to be expelled from ‘the body’. Its an interesting idea, but if it was the intention (either of AK or the original playwright), to me it got lost somewhere in all the melodrama.
Those of you know from my other posts that I’m a bit allergic sometimes to reading too much metaphor or allegory into films in general. But if it was so, then perhaps Quiet Duel can be seen as a forerunner to his more sophisticated later films (and not just Red Beard, as Richie suggests).
Personally, I’m inclined to view it as a straight drama, without any such undertones, but I’d like to hear others thoughts on this…
I see the syphilis as a metaphor for the complex emotional, ethical and social burden that the war left the defeated nation with. Mifune’s character is ready to deal with it, nurse it, and let it heal. Nakada ignores it, leaves the wounds open so to speak, and pays the price. My own experience is that Japan as a nation chose Nakada’s route and the wounds are still open, while my interpretation is that Kurosawa was advocating the position taken by the doctor.
Perhaps this is overly simplistic, but that’s pretty much how I tend to watch it.
Good point, I hadn’t thought of it that way. Your theory makes a lot of sense to me. When I read your post Vili, the first thing I thought of was Ozu’s ‘Record of a Tenement Gentleman’, which also has the theme of how to move on from the war (a very different film of course).
I would agree, a metaphor for a disease in need to be expelled from the body. I wouldn’t however just stop at militarism or defeat, but the long line of Japanese tendency to self inflict ignorance when confronted with a problem or allowing themselves to blindly follow.
In this case Nakada, purposely kept himself ignorant to the nature of this disease so to ignore it easier, even getting angry when Shimura’s character tried to educate.
If you follow the turn of Japan to society, starting around 1910 and even holding largely true today. You’ll see a system of set paths, and attempt to deviated from the path, is punished or criticized. To avoid length, simply, modernized Japan, is a put up, shut up, and do what your told society. At no point is critical and analyzing thought well received or true individualism allowed.
For Nakada(Japan) to mark his problem, fight against, and to question the cause of it, goes to deeply against well set Japanese mindset.
This I think is largely the ideals Kurosawa tackles, and perhaps to a bit more obviousness in Quiet Duel.
Perhaps, Kyoji is one to few to not follow the Japanese trap, or simply being a doctor, gives him the luxury of viewing from a distance and seeing first hand the results of current problems, so changing his mindset. And not to paint the Americans as heroes, but factually the more educated or those less deeply obsessed with the Emperor, and false honor, were simply more accepting to the American attempt at installing critically and analytically thinking- search for the problem, understand, and conquer.
Anyways, what I see here in Quiet Duel, is simply the battle between old Japanese ideals, and new American ideals giving to the Japanese. And some people simply are not capable or willing to change themselves, even if deep down they know change is for the better and so suffer as Nakada.
I’ve properly gotten way off track here, and I know I lack focus, but I think it all related. The Japanese in general lack the willingness to confront, and much rather follow. This is true of nearly of all of Japan’s history, but had the most damaging effects during the Great Wars, with WWII being the climax.
This entire mindset is still largely the same today, any American results from WWII simply weren’t enough to override very strong and deep ideals of blind obeisance. And again not to make America ideals perfect(which far from), but those however of the 40’s-50’s had great merit, and much needed to save the Japanese-which it did. Also, I speak very generally, not all Japanese are the same, and Kurosawa sits away from my talks, as it is he, I feel that really tried to show the Japanese the error of their ways in many of his films.
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