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The Lower Depths vs. Dodesukaden

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    The first time I saw DODESUKADEN, I was struck by the setting and themes it shared with THE LOWER DEPTHS, but felt it somehow failed where the other succeeded. I think the main reason why is the sense of community.

    In THE LOWER DEPTHS, everyone has their own story and their own perspective of their social situation, but, as they are crammed into a single room, those elements are forced to overlap as they build into a family of sorts. In DODESUKADEN, those stories are largely kept individual, with people and their tales split up into individual shacks, only briefly coming into contact with one another. Both have characters who dream, those locked in despair, and those that have adapted and settled, but it’s only with THE LOWER DEPTHS that we really get to see these elements come into contact with one another.

    I wonder why it is that the separate explorations didn’t work for me (and, admittedly, critics) as well as that of the community. And could it be that the detached alienation of tales in the later film was a reflection of Kurosawa’s mindset at what we know was a low point in his career, verses that of THE LOWER DEPTHS, which was done during the height of his success?



    Those are very good observations and interesting questions, Noel. I think you by and large already answered the question why the more scattered narrative of Dodesukaden doesn’t seem to work as well as the more interconnected stories we have in The Lower Depths. I would say that The Lower Depths, in bringing the individual stories together, ends up being more than a sum of its parts. Meanwhile, one is left with the feeling that the stories in Dodesukaden, because they are far less connected, don’t in a sense multiply each other.

    In not making the setting and the community as important in Dodesukaden, it is as if the main character was lost, and the resulting film is that much colder and more distant. The Lower Depths may be an ensemble piece, but it still seems to me to have a very strong lead character — the boarding house itself.

    But I think I’m actually just repeating what you already wrote.

    As for your other question, I guess we could say that Dodesukaden somehow reflected Kurosawa’s mindset at the time — after all, it was he who chose to make the film. On the other hand, while it is very dark in its story, the film is also very colourful. The Lower Depths made its depressing and gloomy setting more watchable with the use of comedy, and I think Dodesukaden uses colour in a somewhat similar fashion (although sometimes I also feel that the bright colours in Dodesukaden just make it more depressing).



    Vili said:

    “…although sometimes I also feel that the bright colours in Dodesukaden just make it more depressing”

    Ooh so creepy! The green on the face of the poisoned blind man!

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