Weather as plot elements in Kurosawa movies
30 May 2014
1 June 2014
Thats an interesting question, I wish I could answer it! The weather of course is always very important in most Kurosawa films, but I’m not sure if anyone has really addressed the reason for this. His producers of course hated this as it drove the budgets up so much. To an extent, I think he really just liked extremes, and the use of extreme heat or rain or wind or fog was a way of allowing us to share the feeling of the characters who are at the end of their tether. I’m no expert on Japanese art, but of course typhoons and tsunamis are a major theme of some famous artists such as Hokusai.
Good luck with your student film! Keep us up to date with how its going.
1 June 2014
Hi and welcome to ak.info!
Mitsushiro Yoshimoto’s book Kurosawa: Film Studies and Japanese Cinema has a section titled “Unnatural Nature” (pp. 74-80), which discusses Kurosawa’s use of nature, and especially his use of weather as a narrative device, and contrasts it with conventional Japanese filmmaking traditions. I would say that this is probably the best starting point.
In the piece, Yoshimoto mentions a 1946 essay by Kurosawa, “The Scenery of Tohoku”, which “talks about the attraction of the four seasons in the Tohoku region” but unfortunately hasn’t been translated into English. If you read Japanese, it should be available in volume two of the Zenshu Kurosawa Akira collection, which collects Kurosawa’s writings, including his screenplays. I haven’t read the essay.
Other than Yoshimoto’s piece, I cannot really think of another longer treatment that looks at Kurosawa’s use of weather across his whole oeuvre. However, since weather is an important part of so many of his films, discussions of individual films often delve into the subject, and if you have access to the main Kurosawa books, you should check at least Richie and Prince, in addition to Yoshimoto. Stray Dog, Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Record of a Living Being, Throne of Blood, High and Low and Dersu Uzala are perhaps the most rewarding starting points.
The importance of weather also comes across when reading Teruyo Nogami’s recollections in her book Waiting on the Weather: Making Movies with Akira Kurosawa, although Nogami doesn’t really try to explain Kurosawa’s artistic reasons there, and despite the title, weather isn’t really that major part of the book .
When it comes to possible underlying reasons for Kurosawa’s use of weather, you might consider what Kurosawa writes in his Something Like an Autobiography, when discussing his time in middle school: “At that stage of my life, I didn’t understand very much about people, but I did understand descriptions of nature. One passage of Turgenev I read over and over again, from the beginning of The Rendezvous where the scenery is described: ‘The seasons could be determined from nothing more than the sound of the leaves on the trees in the forest.’ Because I understood and enjoyed reading descriptions of natural settings so much at this time, I was influenced by them.” (46)
Keiko McDonald’s essay “The Dialectic of Light and Darkness in Kurosawa’s Rashomon”, published in the Donald Richie edited Rashomon, might also be worth checking out. As might be Brian Parker’s Nature and Society in Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood and Alexander Burry’s Transposing the Apocalypse: Kurosawa’s The Idiot. The last two should be downloadable for free.
I hope that these help! Good luck with the film and let us know if it can be watched online when finished!
5 June 2014
Dear Ugetsu, Dear Vili,
Many thanks for the kind, encouraging, and not to mention useful posts. I have already ordered Mitsushiro Yoshimoto’s book, The Dialectic of Light, and Darkness in Kurosawa’s Rashomon”, published in the Donald Richie edited Rashomon, however, I was not able to download this: Nature and Society in Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood, even with my Universities ID and Password.
All the best to you all
12 June 2014
Indeed, the Nature and Society article seems to be behind a paywall now! Sorry about that, I didn’t check properly! Anyway, maybe that one isn’t that important for your topic anyway, in the end. The others are more relevant.
I hope you enjoy your reading!
12 June 2014
Well, I have missed you all, and hope the conversation has been lively (as always!)…I really have missed thinking about Mr. Kurosawa and his circle-but I have been driven by necessity to focus on other areas of life and research! Back today to say I have missed you!
The poetic idea behind this thread drew me in…the use of nature as a plot element or another character in Kurosawa’s films- I am down with that.
I was astonished and deeply moved by Vili’s quotations from Kurosawa regarding his “discovery” of the way nature could create mood…”… One passage of Turgenev I read over and over again, from the beginning of The Rendezvous where the scenery is described: ‘The seasons could be determined from nothing more than the sound of the leaves on the trees in the forest.”
Turgenyev’s Pages from a Sportsman’s Sketchbook has always been deeply inspiring to me-for the evocative landscapes it produces in the mind-and with what economy of means! It is Kurosawa’s genius to be able to create transformative film from this epiphany! More than realization-idea made flesh through the agency of his spirit. If that’s not cinemagic, what is?
Thanks, friends, for a very sweet nugget to gnaw on today!
12 June 2014
Cocoooooooooo!!! Cooooo-cooooooooo!!!!!! !! Hi there! So good to have you pop in! I was just out for a jog and I swear I ran back extra fast when I saw your name pop up in my alerts (a bad habit, having an internet connection while exercising). We’ve missed you, too.
I think it’s been quite a busy year for all of us regulars, and it’s been reflected at the forums. It’s a bit quiet here, but I’m sure the tide will turn again. It always does.
It’s curious how whatever name comes up in our discussions from secondary sources, someone here has intimate knowledge of the person or subject. Never stops amazing me!
12 June 2014
*waves at Coco* Good to hear from you again! You’ve been missed. I was hoping you’d contribute to the thread on Dodesukaden — the last one I’ve been able to add to — but maybe you’ve already said all you have to say about that movie in previous threads.
Extremely professional and interesting website you got here, far from just a fan club, and full of insights.
I wanted to be a filmmaker 35 years ago but a revolution swept through my country like a tsunami.
Now pushing 50, I see no point in living other than following my old dreams. I have stories to tell.
I am making a student film employing some weather elements as plot elements and I am modelling the scenes after Kurosawa movies, but in the reflective report I need to put down some researches that have been down before in this regards.
Any suggestions about the sources that discuss these elements and the meanings behind them in the master’s movies would be highly appreciated. Or his inspiration in this regards including foreign or Japanese art.
All the best