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The Bad Sleep Well: Why do they sleep so well?

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    Ritchie says that the meaning of the title is that:

    The bad men of the title (Mori, Shimura, etc.) always get away with murder, precisely because they are so thoroughly bad. They sleep well because their consciences are so bad that they are serene.

    Prince, on the other hand says:

    The abuses of power that the film documents are vested in a system that shields high government and business officials from public scrutiny and thereby encourages their corruption. That is why the bad can sleep well, because they may act in secrecy and with impunity

    (page 178)

    I know the English name is a simplified translation of the original (I actually much prefer the original US release name, The Rose in the Mud), but I assume the name was carefully chosen by AK. At first I thought that Richies must be the proper explanation – throughout the film the Mori character is largely serene and in control. But his treatment of his daughter implies that he is not completely bad, not a true sociopath as Richie implies. But I’m not sure about Prince’s explanation either, as throughout the film we see the corrupt officials under enormous pressure from the police and the press – Nishi very nearly succeeds in taking them all down, only his own lack of ruthlessness (or ‘evil’ in his words) causes him to fail.

    Or, a third explanation – is the ‘bad’ a reference to the unseen higher official/businessman? Implying that the real evil is at the highest, untouched level, while the lower levels of corruption take the strain and the fall, if necessary?



    That’s a good question, Ugetsu, and you offer excellent counter points to both Richie’s and Prince’s interpretations. Your own suggestion does actually seem the most true to the film.

    Yet, I’m not sure if the English title fully captures the meaning of the Japanese one. It seems, like you say, a simplified translation.


    warui yatsu hodo yoku nemuru

    bad guy degree well sleep

    One bit that seems to be left out when translated as “The Bad Sleep Well” is the particle hodo, which expresses the degree or extent of something. Rather than being a statement of a single type of people, the Japanese title would (at least with a literal translation) seem to imply a scale of things: “worse guys sleep better”, or “the worse a guy is, the better he sleeps”.

    I am also wondering about the use of 奴 (yatsu, ‘guy’), which at least my dictionary suggests as having a derogatory meaning.

    Interestingly, 奴, when pronounced yakko, also happens to mean ‘servant’. Maybe just a coincidence. And now that I’m speculating, I wonder if it means something that 眠る (nemuru) also has the metaphorical meaning ‘to die’. My Japanese isn’t good enough to know whether anyone without a dictionary (that is, a native speaker) would come to think of these things.



    My Japanese isn’t good enough to know whether anyone without a dictionary (that is, a native speaker) would come to think of these things.

    And, here is an almost instant reply to myself. It seems that at least one of my observations holds water. I realised that Yoshimoto probably commented on this, and indeed he did, writing about the film’s Japanese title, which he translates as “The Worse The Are, the Better They Sleep”:

    At first, its meaning seems rather simplistic. … But once we examine the implications of the key term “to sleep” (nemuru), the meaning of the title becomes far more ambiguous. The word nemuru and its related phrases are used in the film’s key scenes. Nemuru means “to sleep” literally and “to die” metaphorically. The film deliberately plays with these two different meanings of the word. (280)

    Yoshimoto goes on to give a few examples of this.

    He also points out that at the end of the film, Iwabuchi wishes the anonymous person on the phone “Good night”, as he is somewhat confused about the time (it is morning) having not slept the whole night. Yoshimoto wonders:

    Is it the unconscious manifestation of Iwabuchi’s resentment toward the Boss, who indirectly ordered Iwabuchi to kill himself [earlier in the film, with the sleeping pills, which is one instance of the sleep/die duality in the film]? Or is it a figurative speech reflecting the film’s title, “the worse they are, the better they sleep”? (281)

    I personally feel that the second idea is the stronger one. It also takes us back to both Ugetsu’s theory and what I wrote earlier. Some sleep better than others, and of all the characters in the film I suppose it is that person at the other end of the line who sleeps the best.



    Very interesting Vili, I do wish I had more than a smattering of Japanese, there are clearly a lot of riches to be found.

    I guess therefore a more literal English translation of the title would be:

    ‘The meaner the bastard, the better he sleeps, but maybe with the fishes’ 😛

    I can’t see that getting past the marketing people!



    ‘The meaner the bastard, the better he sleeps, but maybe with the fishes’

    Haha! That’s a good one. 😆



    I just got a mail from a Japanese friend I asked for a direct literal translation. She wrote:

    ‘I sleep a lot, but I’m not a bad person’.

    I think something got a bit lost in that translation too 😀 😀

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