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Akira Kurosawa's Dreams

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Jacqueline Mercado
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Akira Kurosawa's Dreams

The movie that I chose for this film review is the Japanese-American film Dreams.  This movie production is unique; it is not your typical movie with one story but rather is comprised of 8 distinct episodes, each unrelated to the other that touch on different themes.  This makes it easy to select which episodes to view with students.  While not all of the episodes were of particular interest to me personally, I found this film to be engaging and enjoyable to watch due to tis beautiful scenery and artistic quality and the themes explored to be thought provoking and applicable to the classroom. 

The episodes that caught my attention were either artistic or had an environmental or conservation message.  One of my favorite episodes was one about the artist Vincent Van Goh and his paintings.  The main character searches for the artist and magically finds himself in the paintings as its landscape and characters come alive.  Another episode I found most impactful is one in which a commander encounters his platoon of dead soldiers and they engage in an emotional dialogue about the dignity and courage of dying in war as well as the tragedy of war, whether you die or survive. It is quite touching.  Another of my favorite episodes is one that depicts an idyllic village devoid of modern technologies, with clean air and water, where people live in harmony with nature and die naturally of old age. The scenery is beautiful and peaceful and it causes one to think about how we live and the cost to ourselves and the environment of the development of technology and of not living in harmony with the natural world. 

While not all of the episodes would work in the classroom, I found that I could use some of them to introduce students to some aspects of the Japanese culture and beliefs like the legend of the fox dance, the spirit dance and doll festival in peach blossom orchards.  Students can get a visual of what Japanese traditional dress and customs look like.  These episodes are visually stunning to watch and would provide a good introduction to such topics.  This film could be used to introduce the theme of death in combat, the tragedy of war and its emotional consequences.  Other ideas inherent in the Japanese culture are also touched upon in this film and could be discussed with students such as the celebration of old age.  It could also be used to discuss themes related to conservation of our natural world and the devastating consequences of nuclear radiation.  I think students would enjoy some of the episodes in this film and it might be a good idea to preview the film to see which episodes would be appropriate to use in the classroom.