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Ikiru: Japanese for Realistic Film Existentialism!

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Ikiru: Japanese for Realistic Film Existentialism!

As I mentioned once or twice to the class, I have an after school foreign film program going at my school (stand by for a blog too). For this I spend what seems to be a great deal of time scouring the Net for appropriate award-winning children’s films from around the world. I wish I could report there are many, but there aren’t. That’s the hard part about my job.

In this search, however, I somehow came across the film Ikiru. It is not a children’s film, but because I saw many, many glowing reviews of it, I bought the DVD for myself.

It was written and directed by the very famous Japanese film director, Akira Kurosawa in 1952 (hence the black and white) and is considered not only his crowning achievement, but some say one of the best films ever made.

It is the story of the widower Mr. Watanabe, a mild-mannered and thoroughly predictable, but aging paper-pushing bureaucrat who, when diagnosed with the big C, goes on a Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride-of-a-quest to find meaning in his life. Actually he was more like Goldilocks going vainly from place to place, trying to find a chair, bowl of porridge, or fine bed to rest his weary soul.

Being in black and white lends the film a wonderful tone. The film’s theme is one anybody from Reseda to Reykjavik can relate to. Kurosawa stated that it is the most Dostoevskyan of all his films, i.e., it contends with issues of the human struggle to overcome despair and find personal meaning in life.

Truly, several of the reviews I read stated that this film changed their lives. The ending is touching and beautiful. See it!