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The trauma of old age in Kurosawa´s movies

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    lluvia

    I would like to share other points of view about this. I think Dersu Uzala and Ikiru are good examples of his concern about this matter.

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    Vili Maunula

    That sounds interesting, Iluvia. In what way do you think Dersu Uzala and Ikiru exemplify Kurosawa’s trauma of old age? Also, what exactly do you mean by this trauma?

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    lluvia

    In Dersu Uzala we see the old man that faces his end and he prefer to go on with his precarious life by his own rather than having a more comfortable life with his friend´s family. ..those are decisions an old person must face everywhere. In Ikiru we see how a man changes his lifestyle after knowing that the end is near. ..I assume that .a trauma is the pain all human beings face when getting old

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    Jeremy

    Few people really know to whom they really are, nor even the chance to discover. As death approaches certainly you’ll some people make an attempt to find some answer to themselves, or at least some self-value, if although still under the understanding, that in the grand scale nothing really matters.

    I’m not so sure it’s a “pain” but indeed some could find fear during a realization of the great falseness to life many people get caught into. The strong desire, displayed in a panic, to give something to themselves(even if by giving to others) before it’s all over, else risk ending life ultimately wasted.

    It does remind me of this bit:

    The time of our life is short and tedious, and in the end of a man there is no remedy, and no man hath been known to have returned from hell: For we are born of nothing, and after this we shall be as if we had not been: for the breath in our nostrils is smoke: and speech a spark to move our heart, Which being put out, our body shall be ashes, and our spirit shall be poured abroad as soft air, and our life shall pass away as the trace of a cloud, and shall be dispersed as a mist, which is driven away by the beams of the sun, and overpowered with the heat thereof: And our name in time shall be forgotten, and no man shall have any remembrance of our works. For our time is as the passing of a shadow, and there is no going back of our end: for it is fast sealed, and no man returneth.

    Come therefore, and let us enjoy the good things that are present, and let us speedily use the creatures as in youth. Let us fill ourselves with costly wine, and ointments: and let not the flower of the time pass by us. Let us crown ourselves with roses, before they be withered: let no meadow escape our riot. Let none of us go without his part in luxury: let us everywhere leave tokens of joy: for this is our portion, and this our lot.

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    lluvia

    thanks for your answer Jeremy………..I think Kurosawa´s characters make that process of facing death happen in an ideal way as if that was the way he would like to do it when it comes….it is the thing that happens to everybody that we do not think about that ….we just live…….but when the moment comes we have to react and that is the interesting thing to watch and learn from others if that is possible

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    Ugetsu

    I think the most striking thing about the depiction of old age and impending death in Kurosawa is the complete lack of sentimentality he shows (how much this is a ‘Japanese’ thing or is distinctly Kurosawa is something I’m not qualified to say). From the old lady who hacks the bandit to death in Seven Samurai to the deluded old warrior in Ran, old people in his films are depicted with a very cold and unsparing eye.

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    lluvia

    ………mmm…………do you think sentimentality is showed only with the eyes or the face…….?

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    Ugetsu

    ………mmm…………do you think sentimentality is showed only with the eyes or the face…….?

    I think you misunderstand – when I talked about the ‘cold and unsparing eye’, I meant the directors eye – in other words, how the director (Kurosawa) saw his characters.

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    lluvia

    Yes………you are right ……I misunderstood……….but I do not agree with what you say either………..old age “is” or seems to be that way but his actions do not match with the appearance in general……….maybe the old age matter has not been studied much……..and it is also more difficult to understand by young people as we as human beings lack the ability to understand those who belong to other group age much (english is not my language …I hope I make myself understand……….. 😉

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    Ugetsu

    …I hope I make myself understand………..

    You are quite clear! You are right to say I think that the issue of old age is something thats hasn’t (to my knowledge) been looked at in detail in his films, but it is a recurring them. When I think about old age in his films the image that always comes to mind is that old, wrinkled woman in Seven Samurai and her deep fear of death, with her sole relief being the opportunity to hack down one of the bandits. Not exactly the sort of thing we’d see in a Hollywood film! But, I think its fair to say that in that period, Japanese film makers did usually address old age in a more realistic way, with none of the sentimentality of other film industries. Or perhaps my view on this is biased by those films I’ve seen (Ozu of course has some wonderful aging characters in his films).

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    lawless

    I always thought the old crone’s motivation in Seven Samuraiwas that with no relative, particularly no male relatives, she had no way to support herself anymore, so was condemned to die of starvation if it weren’t for the help of people like Shino, neh? I didn’t read it as fear of death itself but that she had nothing to live for anymore except revenge.

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    Ugetsu

    Lawless:

    always thought the old crone’s motivation in Seven Samuraiwas that with no relative, particularly no male relatives, she had no way to support herself anymore, so was condemned to die of starvation if it weren’t for the help of people like Shino, neh? I didn’t read it as fear of death itself but that she had nothing to live for anymore except revenge.

    I think she was afraid of death as she was terrified that the afterlife would have bandits too. I don’t think there really is an explanation for why she killed the captive. I assumed this was Kurosawa’s way of de-sentimentalizing the villagers, including the old widow. It is a pretty shocking scene from the western perspective (at least, I found it shocking and unexpected). As to whether a Japanese audience would have shared that reaction, I don’t really know.

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    cocoskyavitch

    Ah, but in “Dreams” in the village of the watermills story there is the old man who is triumphant in his old age. Happy with life, on friendly terms with death.

    I believe, too, that “Madadayo” was Kurosawa’s attempt to reconcile death and age with a life well lived and a sense of satisfaction at the life lived.

    Here’s what I think then: When Kurosawa was younger, death and old age seemed to him the horrible things that they must seem to the young. The old woman in Seven Samurai makes all the samurai cringe! They too, are afraid of a fate to be rootless in the wrold, alone without comfort in old age…without the werewithal to provide for themselves. It must have seemed quite real to them, quite personally meaningful and sad. It is natural to feel this pity and terror for ageing for poverty for something that appears to be just another of the sad frailties of life…(I do get a shivver of horror in her revenge motivation, too, Illuvia).

    As Kurosawa aged he looked for ways to find meaning in ageing and in death. He focusses on triumphant characters. One may argue that Ikiru isn’t really that “old”-he is merely facing mortality, and coming to terms with it after not having even noticed that he was alive for most of his time on earth. So, I think it’s a bit different-more of a memento mori tale than youth’s shivver of disgust at age.

    Illuvia, though, your mention of Dersu Uzala seems quite on point-I think the movie has two really big ideas: one idea is about the natural relationship of man to the environment, and the other is a meditation on the realities of illness, loss old age and death.

    Jeremy, waxing poetic on death and old age…

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    lluvia

    your comments are interesting……….thank you to all… 🙂

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    lawless

    Ugetsu, I found the old crone’s revenge in Seven Samurai brutal but not surprising. It’s a life for a life, eye for an eye philosophy. Even more than that: by killing her grandson, they in essence killed her too. What was a little more surprising was that the samurai, after trying to enforce the Geneva Convention (a little snark there – really it was their own code of honor), gave way, presumably because the village elder was the one who made the suggestion and sanctioned it.

    In Japanese society, old age is revered. Look at the village elder/Old Man himself: he’s obeyed more or less unquestioningly. Even Manzo, who challenges him about fighting and bringing in samurai, dares not openly oppose him. Tthe village elder stays in his house/mill when that means certain death. I don’t think fear of death or fear of meeting bandits in the afterlife motivated either him or the old crone; I think the motivation was fear of living when that meant starvation and privation (in her case) and living on his own terms in his own home (in his case). Death was probably preferable to that.

    Hey, Coco, welcome back.

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    cocoskyavitch

    lawless, granny still shocks me a bit, although you are right-it is understandable, and you have articulated a reason for her actions well.

    Thanks for hte welcome home. I have missed this forum, and the good discussions going on!

    I want to just put out there, that Istanbul is a damn good place to spend some time. If you can manage a dinner with friends on the rooftop of the Orient Express hotel with a view of the Bosporus, the Golden Horn and the city, and watch the celebratory wedding fireworks by the bridge as night falls, and have some lamb and red wine while handsome Turks speak their burbling language to one another…well, I would have to recommend that as one of life’s great pleasures.

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    lawless

    About Granny – forgot to say that with the scythe she looked to me like a dumpy Japanese female version of Father Time. Or the Grim Reaper, except with no black. Then again black was never the traditional color of mourning in Asian cultures; white was, although maybe not in Japan. I know Japanese brides wear traditional white Western-style gowns and many Chinese brides do now but when my Korean cousins married Chinese men while ago, they wore traditional red wedding dresses.

    My husband’s stepbrother is in the Foreign Service in Turkey and loves Istanbul as well, although I think he works in Ankara.

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    cocoskyavitch

    Ankara can be beastly in the winter…I’ve spent a couple cold Decembers there, with wet snow in your boots as you slosh through the gutters in the back alley streets. But it is Attaturk’s city-and his mausoleum is fascinating (I love the golden alphabet presented to him, and his tophat and cane, and the pictures of clouds in the shape of his face). I love the archaeology museum with precious finds from Catal Hayak, and the Hittite sites.

    But, Istanbul is the most seductive with its cool breezes from the Bosporus and the lure of the boats plying the waters between Asia and Europe…the wonderful restaurants and warm people.

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