I LIVE IN FEAR
A film by Akira Kurosawa
Japan /1955 /103 mins
5.45 pm / 25th Jan 2015 / Perks Mini Theater
Kurosawa takes us back to the period when Japan was limping back to normalcy after the disastrous second world war and the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The film opens in a dental office, where Dr. Harada who is an honorary family court mediator receiving a call asking him to report to the court in the afternoon. The case he will help mediate is of a family trying to have their patriarch, Kiichi Nakajima , declared incompetent.
Mr. Nakajima, used to calling the shots after years of ruling his steel foundry with an iron fist, is facing unexpected opposition by his own sons, Ichiro and Jiro, who serve as spokesmen for the rest of the family. They oppose the old man’s desire to sell off the family assets and relocate the whole bunch of them to, of all places, Brazil. But no one realizes that Mr. Nakajima is living in fear. Nakajima’s fear, though based upon a real, imminent event, intensified because of posttraumatic stress brought on by the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II.
Clearly, in 1955, Japanese society is at a different place than it was in the past, as recently as the war years, when solemn paternal decrees were issued and obeyed without question. I Live in Fear is, among other things, an attempt to grapple with new ways of coping with families in turmoil. It powerfully captures the genuine anxiety and uncertainty that beset a nation at a critical juncture in its history. This is the final film of this period in which Akira Kurosawa would directly wrestle with the demons of the Second World War and his most literal representation of living in an atomic age. (Source: Internet)
Akira Kurosawa was the youngest of seven children, born in Tokyo on 23 March 1910. A talented painter, he enrolled in an art school that emphasized Western styles. Around this time he also joined an artists' group with a great enthusiasm for nineteenth-century Russian literature, with Dostoevsky a particular favourite. Another influence was Heigo, one of his brothers, who loved film and worked as a benshi, a film narrator/commentator for foreign silent films. His suicide deeply affected the director's sensibilities.
In 1930 he responded to a newspaper advertisement for assistant directors at a film studio and began assisting Kajiro Yamamoto, who liked the fact he knew 'a lot about things other than movies'. Within five years he was writing scripts and directing whole sequences for Yamamoto films. In 1943 he made his debut as a director with Judo Saga (Sanshiro Sugata), with a magnificent martial-arts sequence.
His early films were produced during the Second World War, so had to comply to themes prescribed by official state propaganda policy. It was Drunken Angel which was Kurosawa's first personally expressive work, made in 1948 and featuring Toshiro Mifune who became Kurosawa's favourite leading man.
For those who discover Kurosawa, they will find a master technician and stylist, with a deep humanism and compassion for his characters and an awe of the enormity of nature. He awakened the West to Japanese cinema with Rashomon, which won the top prize in the Venice Film Festival of 1951, and also a special Oscar for best foreign film. A golden period followed, with the West enthralled by his work. Seven Samurai, Yojimbo etc.
Following Red Beard (Akahige) in 1965 he entered a frustrating period of aborted projects and forced inactivity and when in 1970 his first film in five years (Dodeska-den) failed at the box office, he attempted suicide. Directing a Soviet-Japanese production, Dersu Uzala helped him to recover and took four years to make. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1975 and a gold medal at the Moscow Film Festival.
A true auteur, he supervised the editing of nearly all his films and wrote or collaborated on the scripts of most. His memoirs were published in 1982, titled Something like an Autobiography. In 1989 he won an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement. Kurosawa died in 1998.