Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru

The power of death’s magnetism in films, like the sound of a lonely cricket at night, lingers for a while longer after it’s gone. Ikiru (which means ‘to live’ or ‘living’), a film that from scene one follows a middle-aged man’s crucial and inescapable confrontation with death, is an unsettled debt that the protagonist is bound to after decades of a weary and muted existence.

I wonder, which truth is harder to endure? To die after experiencing a spectrum of emotions and sensations; distilling the soul and mind of all of life’s joy, grief, and longing. Or to die knowing that you never did. Both faculties of thought, perhaps of disappointment, frustration, or fear, make a deep crack on the surface of this film. As the viewer, you feel the slowing-down-of-time in the protagonist’s consciousness. The “awakened” state of his individuality that, through people and experiences, lives an unlived life.

Maybe the idea that “people strangle themselves in their daily lives” is more present today than it has ever been. So to bring about a shift in perspective, however unguided and unbelievably alone one feels, is to rebel against one’s past self. Nothing conveys this sentiment as vividly and hauntingly as Kenji Watanabe. It’s Watanabe’s wide-eyed and frightened manner that makes you reflect upon death’s chafing and brooding presence. And our ignorance of it.

The immediacy of his actions nullifies vanity in the way the world sees us. The film would like us to see ourselves. The bars stiff with bobbing heads, the closeness between two lovers, the exercised mockery of a bureaucratic lifestyle that strips away one’s oneness… one’s idiosyncratic inner nature and rather promotes obstinate sameness upon the society. This is death’s one and only lesson. Death is not a final act…. rather it’s the takeaway of one’s eternal death since birth.