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Ikiru remake Living will premiere in the UK in November

LivingLiving, the new British remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru, will premiere on November 11 in the UK. US premieres in Lost Angeles and New York will follow on December 23. More dates will likely be added to the film’s IMDb page when they become available.

Directed by Oliver Hermanus and starring Bill Nighy, the film was adapted from Kurosawa by the Nobel Prize winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro.

Living was originally shown at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and was received positively, with its Rotten Tomatoes score currently standing at 96%. Our very own PeterT also had the opportunity to see the film and you can read his thoughts here.

You can also watch and listen to the film’s star Bill Nighy talk about the film in this YouTube clip:




Vili Maunula

A teaser trailer was just released for the film: you can see it on YouTube.



Looking forward to seeing this and comparing it with the masterful original. Looks decent though!



On the subject of the remake (which I’ve managed not to see yet), here is a really interesting list of Kazuo Ishiguro’s top 10 films – it shows excellent taste on his behalf imo. It includes Ikiru obviously, but he also has some interesting observations on Ozu’s Late Spring.



‘Living’ has just come to neighborhood theaters in the U.S., and I went to see it a few days ago. Like Peter T, I have mixed feelings about it. It’s a pretty faithful remake of ‘Ikiru,’ even down to the small details in many scenes (e.g., the stacks of papers and folders in the office; Mr. Williams’ son hiding behind his newspaper at the dining table; Miss Harris holding her fuzzy white toy as she sits with Mr. Williams; one of the mothers running out with an umbrella to shield Mr. Williams from the pouring rain). The acting is excellent, and the sets and photography are admirable. If I didn’t know ‘Ikiru,’ the film might have impressed and affected me more than it did.

However, since I do know ‘Ikiru,’ I can’t help comparing the two, and in several key elements I think ‘Living’ suffers. The wake scene occupies the whole second half of ‘Ikiru,’ and nearly all of the major players appear in it. The politicians, the office workers, the relatives, the mothers, the newspaper reporters, and the police officer – they all have their say, and the narrative evolves as they hash things out, in some cases drunkenly. There is nothing comparable in ‘Living.’ Instead, there is a church service, after which Mr. Williams’ son breaks down because he didn’t know (hadn’t been told) his father was dying. The office mates take the train home from the service, and it is only among the four of them that discussion occurs about the role of Mr. Williams in the making of the playground. As in ‘Ikiru,’ they conclude by vowing to approach their jobs with the seriousness and purpose that Mr. Williams showed. But the energy, the humor, and the believability of the ‘Ikiru’ version are all lost.

There are also smaller scenes where I thought ‘Living’ came up short. One involves the dancer, whom Mr. Williams observes during his night on the town. In ‘Ikiru’ she is stunning and seductive, and Watanabe is mesmerized. In ‘Living’ she is just a plain, somewhat overweight, stripper, and the effect is very tawdry. I suppose the film makers wanted to give this incident the same seamy tone as the rest of the night’s activities.

The song that Mr. Williams/Watanabe sings is also handled very differently in the two films. In ‘Ikiru,’ Watanabe merely requests that the pianist play a certain song, which he does. As the music continues, Watanabe, seated, begins to sing slowly and softly, his lips barely moving, oblivious to those around him. Tears appear in his eyes as he continues, seemingly unaware that the room has quieted and all are staring at him. It is very moving. In ‘Living,’ Mr. Williams, standing, announces that he wants to sing and proceeds to offer an old Scottish ballad, quite loudly and not particularly slowly. He breaks off mid-song, unable to continue. It moved him, but not me.

Perhaps what’s behind the difference in portrayal of the song scene, and hence my differing reactions, is the difference between Mr. Williams and Watanabe in their physical appearance. From the beginning, Watanabe looks like a broken man – head down, body stooped, a tendency to stare into space – whereas Mr. Williams is tall and straight up and walks briskly. His more forward behavior in the song scene may be consistent with his more vigorous appearance, but it lessened the impact, at least for me.

Finally, there is the scene on the swing. In ‘Living,’ there is some snow on the ground and a few flakes in the air. Mr. Williams sings and swings. Again, the song is neither particularly slow nor soft. The focus is sharp and quite close up. In ‘Ikiru,’ Watanabe sings his song softly and slowly. Heavy snow is falling. The camera views him from the front as he swings. His hat and coat are covered in snow. The ground is covered. He feet barely touch the ground as he swings back and forth. It is as though he is in another world. It’s been called “one of the most beautiful and moving climaxes in movie history.”



Thank you for this review, njean.



Living never came to cinemas where I live, but has now appeared on streaming services, so I rented and watched it last night. My thoughts are pretty much the same as what PeterT and njean have written. It is a lovely film, but lacks something to make it special.

It certainly is a much less dynamic film than Kurosawa’s. Ikiru‘s tempo and intensity fluctuates, particularly with the night life scenes and in the wonderfully orchestrated second half. Living, in contrast, is more of a one-note piece that stays very reserved, mellow and understated throughout. At times this makes it feel like it actually ventures into a full-on parody of Britishness, especially in the scene between Mr Williams’s son and Miss Harris. I’m not sure if that particular scene was intentionally comedic, although the film definitely is quite funny in many places, nudging and winking at the audience. I wouldn’t say that the comedy always totally comes together or supports the story, but I did like a lot of the visuals, as well as the film’s commitment to its era with its overall style, opening and end titles, wipe cuts and aspect ratio.

Ishiguro’s dialogue is wonderful of course, as his writing always is. Acting is also excellent throughout. Although I think, and this is no fault of Bill Nighy’s, a major difference with the original is how close we feel to the protagonist. I would say that in Ikiru, the first half of the film very much takes us into Watanabe’s head, making us feel like him and understand him. We are part of him. We literally start the film inside of him with that X-ray. This is all very important for the second half, where we get the outside reactions to Watanabe’s actions, and can judge and interpret the various unreliable witnesses because we, unlike the characters at the wake, actually know and understand Watanabe. This narrative device isn’t really similarly utilised in Living. Since Mr Williams remains much more distant to the viewer in the first half, he becomes a caricature in the second, or at least I wasn’t really able to properly fill in the gaps that were left by the characters who were reminiscing about his actions.

Living is, of course, 40 minutes shorter than its source, so I suppose it is understandable that it offers a lot less background and context for its world and characters than Ikiru does. And if the intention was to make a film with this particular mood and pacing, I think 1 hour 42 minutes was the correct choice for length. Although a lot of scenes and events felt a little rushed and only superficially (or understatedly?) visited, I certainly didn’t feel like the film as a whole flew by.

Living is a competent film with a lot of style, but I think lacks much of the wisdom and social commentary of the original.

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